Decades of contribution to wheat breeding and cereal chemistry research has seen Narrabri’s Dr Lindsay O’Brien honoured with the Farrer Memorial Medal.

The accolade, named in honour of plant breeder William James Farrer, recognises distinguished service in agricultural science in Australia.

Dr O’Brien was presented with the medal in front of a small gathering at the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute today.

Dr O’Brien started his research career in 1968 at Horsham, Victoria.

It was not until 1988 that he would venture to north-west New South Wales to start his role as director of the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute.

His decades of work has spanned enormous periods of change, from major technological advancements to the deregulation of the wheat industry.

Reflecting on receiving the accolade, Dr O’Brien described it as a nice surprise.

“You don’t do these things for honours and accolades,” he told The Courier. “But when they come along, it’s a nice acknowledgement.”

While he retired from the PBI in 2001, he still maintains an active interest in the centre.

This year, he has been busy scouring through The Courier’s archives and compiling the history of the centre as it marks its 60th year.

“I stupidly said that someone needs to research the history of the place,” he joked.

“It’s important that the history is all documented.”

It was intended for Dr O’Brien to receive his honour at the 60th anniversary celebration of the institute, but the event was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NSW Department of Primary Industries Deputy Director General Agriculture Kate Lorimer-Ward presented the Farrer Memorial Medal to Dr O’Brien at the ceremony in Narrabri and congratulated him on receiving the prestigious award.

“Dr O’Brien’s research has made a significant impact to plant
breeding, breeding methodology, cereal chemistry and cropping systems to advance national and international farming systems,” she said.

“In 1988 his research included a tour to Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, France and the United Kingdom to collect germplasm for use in Australian wheat breeding programmes.

“Dr O’Brien was a Member of the Grains Research and Development Corporation, NSW Committee from 1991-1995 and responsible for funding of grains research in NSW.

“In 2011-2012 he was responsible for the Review of Cereal Rust research in Australia and the Review of Crown Rot research.

“Dr O’Brien has been a leading breeder of new wheat varieties, including the senior breeding advisor to LongReach Plant Breeders, which has released 28 new varieties since 2002.”

She said Dr O’Brien has held many professional roles during his long and distinguished career and is
currently a Member of the Council of the Australasian Grain Science Association Inc and Secretary of the Wheat Breeding Society of Australia Inc.

“In 2017 Dr O’Brien received the Wheat Breeding Society of Australian Inc. Triticum Award for Excellence in Wheat Improvement,” Ms Lorimer-Ward said.

In 2016 he was honoured with the EE Bond Medal at the Australasian Grain Science Association Conference.

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