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Plant Research Divisions

The current Division of Plant Industry had its origins in the following strands:

  • the Division of Economic Botany
  • the Commonwealth Research Station at Merbein
  • the Wheat Research Unit

The Division of Economic Botany was established in early 1927 and was a part of CSIR. In 1929 it was renamed the Division of Plant Industry which continued for another 85 years absorbing most of CSIRO’s plant research.

The Tropical Pastures Section of the Division of Plant Industry became a separate division, the Division of Tropical Pastures, in 1959. It was renamed the Division of Tropical Agronomy in 1973 and in 1974 absorbed the Kimberley Research Station which also had been part of the Division of Plant Industry. The Division of Tropical Agronomy was renamed the Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures in 1976. In 1996 it merged with the Division of Tropical Animal Production to form the Division of Tropical Agriculture. In 2000 the Division of Tropical Agriculture closed, its functions being taken over by the newly formed Division of Livestock Industries and the Division of Sustainable Ecosystems.

The Commonwealth Research Station, Murray Irrigation Area, in the north-west of Victoria, was established in 1927, when the previously existing research facilities came under the control of CSIR. In 1962, the Station was renamed the Horticultural Research Section with a Headquarters Laboratory opened in Adelaide in 1964. In 1967 it attained divisional status becoming the Division of Horticultural Research. In 1988 it was renamed the Division of Horticulture.

In 1997, the Division of Horticulture was incorporated into the Division of Plant Industry.

The Wheat Research Unit was established in 1958 as an independent CSIRO unit attached to the Bread Research Institute of Australia which had been formed around 1947. It continued to be supervised by the Bread Research Institute until 1988 (the Director of the Institute was the Officer-in-Charge of the Unit), when it was incorporated into the Division of Plant Industry. The Wheat Research Unit was renamed the Grain Quality Research Laboratory of the Division of Plant Industry in 1992 and subsequently the Wheat Germplasm and Grain Quality Laboratory in 1998.

Other Sections from the Division of Plant Industry that became divisions in their own right or amalgamated with other divisions were:

  • the Agricultural Physics Section which became the Division of Environmental Mechanics in 1971. It merged with the Division of Water Resources and the Division of Soils to form the Division of Land and Water in 1997.
  • the Northern Australia Regional Survey Section formed in 1946 and renamed the Land Research and Survey Section in 1950 became the Division of Land Research and Regional Survey in 1957.

Another Section of CSIRO devoted to plant research was the Flax Research Section, established in July 1945. It was renamed the Plant Fibre Section in 1952 and the Fodder Conservation Section in 1958. It ceased to exist in 1967.

In a major restructuring of CSIRO in 2014, with Flagships replacing Divisions as the organization’s operating units, the bulk of the Division of Plant Industry (471 staff) became the core of the Agriculture Flagship. They were joined by 100 of the 474 staff from the former Division of Animal, Food and Health Sciences and 76, 44, and 24 staff from the former Divisions of Ecosystem Sciences, Land and Water and Marine and Atmospheric Research respectively. In 2015 the term Flagship was dropped by the Organization.

History of Plant Research Divisions

Agriculture Divisions

Chief of Division/Officer-in-Charge

Division Chief
Economic Botany (1927-29) Bertram Thomas Dickson (1928-29)
Plant Industry (1929-2014) Bertram Thomas Dickson (1929-51)
Otto Herzberg Frankel (1951-62)
John Edwin Rogers Falk (1963-70)
Lloyd Thomas Evans (1971-78)
William James Peacock (1978-2003)
Jeremy James Burdon (2003-2012)
John Manners (2012-14)
Commonwealth Research Station at Merbein (1927-62) Alexander Victor Lyon (1927-50)
Frank Penman (1950-61)
John Victor Possingham (1962)
Horticultural Research Section (1962-67) John Victor Possingham (1962-67)
Horticultural Research (1967-88) John Victor Possingham (1967-88)
Horticulture (1988-97) John Victor Possingham (1988-91)
Robert Ronald Walker (Acting 1991-92)
Elizabeth Williams / Elizabeth Gordon Heij (1992-97)
Flax Research Section (1945-52) William Laurence Greenhill (O-i-C 1945-52)
Plant Fibre Section (1952-58) William Laurence Greenhill (O-i-C 1952-58)
Fodder Conservation Section (1958-67) William Laurence Greenhill (O-i-C 1958-67)
Tropical Pastures (1959-73) John Griffiths (Jack) Davies (1959-69)
Edward Mark Hutton (1969-73)
Tropical Agronomy (1973-76) Edward Mark Hutton(1973-76)
Tropical Crops and Pastures (1976-96) Edward Mark Hutton (1976-77)
Edward Frederick Henzell (1977-87)
Raymond John Jones (Acting 1988)
Robert John Clements (1989-95)
John Arthur Taylor (1996)
Tropical Agriculture (1996-2000) Elizabeth Gordon Heij (1997-2000)
Wheat Research Unit (1958-92) Eric Ernest Bond (O-i-C 1958-82)
Colin Walter Wrigley (1982-88)

Sources

• Schedvin CB, Trace K, 1978, Historical Directory of CSIR and CSIRO 1926-1976, CSIRO Publishing.

Encyclopedia of Australian Science [external link]

• CSIRO Annual Reports

• CSIRO Communications