The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) is a research institute at the University of Tasmania specialising in research, development, extension and education to support prosperous, innovative and sustainable agriculture and food sectors in Tasmania. TIA began in 1997 as a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government, bringing together the human and physical resources of the Tasmanian Government with the scientific research and teaching capacity of the University of Tasmania.
The JM Roberts Charitable Trust was established in 2003 by the late John Roberts with a goal to provide additional funding to support and promote the well-being of our natural environment today and for generations to come.
Specifically, the Trust has a focus in the areas of reducing land and soil degradation, clean waterways, re-vegetation, managing erosion and informing and educating the community and youth on the importance of land care.
2024 Nuffield Scholar
Building farmer resilience in the face of a changing climate
Managing a diverse family business in partnership with his father, David Roberts-Thomson works in cropping, horticulture, tourism and retail. They grow tulips, Dutch iris, hyacinths, daffodils, liliums, wheat, barley, peas and seed crops on 125ha at Table Cape, Tasmania.
“I come to the scholarship from a commitment to creating positive change in agriculture,” says David.
A founding member of Soil First Tasmania, David is passionate about setting growers up for success by improving soil quality for enhanced production. For his 2024 scholarship, he will study opportunities for biological priming of soils, for crop resilience and production.
“I am optimistic we can do better for the farmer and the environment.”
David’s scholarship is supported by the JM Roberts Charitable Trust and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.
“It is my intention to understand how the world’s best farmers are starting their crops, especially through a biological lens. There are significant opportunities to increase soil health, crop resilience, profitability and yield in a changing climate.”
David will focus on grown, bulk and targeted amendments. He aims to visit a range of growing regions around the world, including within Australia.
David says farmers in parts of Europe and the UK have increased their production from less inputs. He hopes to visit these areas with similarities to his own operation in Tasmania.
"The US and Canada are also on my hit list, demonstrating innovation in soil priming, while Central America, India and Thailand have all has realised the results of soil priming innovation as well."
David has seen first-hand how interventions need to be tailored to a specific area, with some innovations not being practical or possible for farmers, depending on where they grow.
“My proposed project seeks to enhance understanding of the soil/plant relationship, underpinning productivity and soil health.”
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