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UWA soil expert scoops inaugural national award

Image: Professor Abbott at The University of Western Australia.

The University of Western Australia’s Emerita Professor Lynette Abbott has been named the inaugural recipient of the prestigious General Jeffery Soil Health Award.

Professor Abbott is a world-leading academic and science communicator in soil science and soil biology at the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and The UWA Institute of Agriculture.

“It is a great honour to be recognised in this way,” she said.

Named for Australia’s first National Soils Advocate, the late Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd), the award recognises an individual’s work to champion, improve and educate others in soil health.

During the 2021 National Landcare Awards ceremony held online last week, Australia’s current National Soils Advocate the Honourable Penny Wensley AC said Professor Abbott was a leading voice in the field of soil health.

“She is a most deserving recipient of this new award,” Ms Wensley said.

“It is a great pleasure for me to be able to acknowledge her contribution and to support her continued work through this $20,000 award.

“General Jeffery was a tireless champion of soil health. I am sure all who knew and worked with him will be delighted to see his legacy honoured and maintained in this way.”

Professor Abbott conducted pioneering research into symbiotic soil fungi in agriculture and disturbed natural environments during an academic career that has spanned more than five decades.

Her research addresses fungal interactions with plants and implications for fertiliser management and soil amendments.

“My passion for soil science evolved from an interest in plants,” she said.

“I found there was a gap in applying knowledge of soil biology in agriculture more generally, so in my career, I took this on as a challenge.”

Professor Abbott said her greatest advice for the next generation of soil scientists was to never lose sight of your passion.

“Do not avoid investigation of areas that are not mainstream if you are passionate about them,” she said.

“The more challenging the questions, the greater reward in the longer term.”

Professor Abbott established the innovative ‘Know your Soil Biology’ workshops for farmers and provides hands-on activities demonstrating the benefits of soil biota for soil health.

She leads the Land Restoration Demonstration Site research project at UWA Farm Ridgefield, and is currently consolidating soil health knowledge through a project in the Australian Government Smart Farms program.

The General Jeffery Soil Health Award was established and is supported by the Office of the National Soils Advocate within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and is administered by Landcare Australia.

Source: UWA

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