Winthrop Professor Neil Turner, from The University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture, will this week be presented with the People's Republic of China's highest award for "foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country's economic and social progress".
A dryland agriculture expert, Professor Turner has been selected by China's State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) as one of only 50 foreign experts to receive the national Friendship Award in 2012.
In 2011 Professor Turner received the prestigious Dunhuang Award from the Gansu People's Provincial Government as part of the 62nd anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China. A provincial award is a prerequisite for being considered for the national Friendship Award which is conferred as part of the celebrations for the National Day of the People's Republic of China on October 1st.
The awards recognise Professor Turner's outstanding service and contribution to the joint UWA and Lanzhou University (LZU) economic, scientific, academic development and education program in Gansu.
The program includes the introduction of improved cultivars of wheat and barley and grain and forage legumes to increase cereal and legume production, while maintaining soil health to withstand wind and water erosion in the semi-arid region of the Loess Plateau of China.
Professor Turner, is a former CSIRO Scientist and Director of the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture at UWA. For the past 28 years he has worked with dryland farmers in Western Australia, which has similar rainfall to the Loess Plateau in China.
He first visited China in 1989, and has spent one month a year for the past five years at the Key Laboratory for Grassland and Arid Ecology at LZU, helping staff and postgraduates with their research and publications.
Professor Turner said he greatly appreciated the honour and acknowledged the work of his colleagues at UWA's Institute of Agriculture and at LZU.
"The collaboration between the UWA Institute of Agriculture and LZU has helped to develop plans to assist farmers to increase yields and incomes."
Professor Turner praised Chinese agricultural progress, saying it had come a long way, including increasing wheat yields 900 per cent from 0.5 t/ha in 1960 to 4.5 t/ha in 2005, by introducing new cultivars, increasing fertiliser use and developing water-saving agriculture. However, he said there was more that could be done.
"I look forward to continuing to visit Gansu to assist the Key Laboratory for Arid and Grassland Ecology at LZU and to work with farmers to further improve their yields and water use."
UWA and LZU are developing a joint Centre for Dryland Agricultural Ecosystems to further develop collaborative research giving Australian researchers access to new facilities on root growth at LZU and giving LZU researchers access to specialist facilities and expertise for drought research at UWA.
An interview with Professor Turner about his award and work in China is available from ABC online.
CRICOS Code: 00126G