James (Jim) Davidson

By September 17th, 2014


Jim Davidson was born in Adelaide in 1932. He graduated BAgSc from the University of Adelaide in 1953, obtained his MAgSc (agronomy) from there in 1956 and his PhD (crop physiology) from the University of Nottingham in 1963.

He joined CSIRO Division of Plant Industry as a research scientist in 1956 at its Deniliquin (NSW) research station, and remained with the Division throughout his working life. At Deniliquin he worked with Dr JP Quirk then of the CSIRO Division of Soils, Adelaide, to overcome the problems of pasture establishment on the irrigated heavy clays of the riverine plain. Success came with the use of small quantities of gypsum dissolved in the irrigation water or with large quantities broadcast on the soil.

With Dr JR Philip, also at CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, Deniliquin, he published the first mathematical model of light and pasture growth as a theoretical basis for pasture management.

In 1966, he transferred to Canberra and began working to help producers in the high-rainfall zone, turning within a few years to wheat. He was determined that they should have the same opportunities to grow wheat that the wheat/sheep zone offered. The plant breeding program resulted in the generation of the following new varieties of wheat such as: Lawson, Paterson, Gordon, Tennant, Brennan and Dennis. The breeding program catered for different parts of the high-rainfall zone with varieties with increasing resistance to disease. The program also produced the long-season winter wheat Mackellar which was the first wheat variety resistant to the major stunting disease, Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV). This variety was registered by Susan Kleven who first worked with Davidson and later succeeded him.

Honours and awards

Jim Davidson’s contributions to plant science have been recognised by the following honours and awards:


1999 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
1988 Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science


2003 Member of the Order of Australia
2001 Centenary Medal
1998 CM Donald Medal of the Australian Society of Agronomy
1997 Medal of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology
1997 CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement


  • Davidson JL, 2009, Personal communication.
Find out more
  • Wheat breeding (Overview – Research)
  • Wheat and baarley pre-breeding outputs (Plant industry)