The contribution of Cassandra Schefe to the Australian grains industry has been officially recognised by way of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s 2019 Southern Region Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.
The award, voted upon by the GRDC Southern Region Panel, acknowledges Dr Schefe’s input and commitment to the grains industry.
In presenting the award at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Bendigo, GRDC Southern Region Panel chair John Bennett described Dr Schefe as “an asset to our industry” – not just in the region where she works as a research co-ordinator for Riverine Plains Inc and as an independent soil science consultant, but well beyond.
“Cassie is in an elite class,” Mr Bennett said.
“She is one of those researchers who has a rare ability to undertake cutting-edge scientific research and then extend the outcomes of that work to growers and others in an engaging and easy-to-understand fashion, that results in on-farm impact.”
Prior to commencing work with Riverine Plains, Dr Schefe’s career was with what is now known as Agriculture Victoria, where she was first employed as a DPI Cadet in 1996 while studying Agricultural Science.
She then became a research scientist in soil chemistry, working on several GRDC investments.
After completing her PhD studies through a GRDC-funded scholarship, which included study at the University of Naples Italy, Dr Schefe collaborated with technical experts to develop synchrotron techniques to better understand nutrient reactions in soil.
Dr Schefe began working for Riverine Plains in March 2014 in the capacity of extension officer. One of the key tasks of this newly-created position was to instigate four grower discussion groups across the Riverine Plains area as part of a GRDC investment to improve the adoption of no-till stubble retained systems in the region by overcoming some of the constraints associated with these systems.
“Over the life of what has been known as the Stubble Initiative, Cassie organised discussion groups and facilitated interaction,” Mr Bennett said.
“She also assisted in the extension of research results from the project through other means, including through presentations at seminars and field days.”
In 2015, Dr Schefe was instrumental in securing additional investment from the GRDC to measure the impact of different stubble treatments on in-canopy temperatures at three large-plot stubble trial sites for the 2015-17 field plot trials.
This investment linked the project into the GRDC’s National Frost Initiative, with all data generated being submitted into the national frost research database for review and analysis.
Dr Schefe has also worked on a number of other GRDC investments and various agricultural industry research programs, while continuing professional development as a Certified Professional Soil Scientist (CPSS).
Through her private consultancy, Dr Schefe works with universities, councils, catchment management authorities, industry, farmers and other organisations, providing soil science advice.
She is the interface between Australian farmers and the international food industry for the Australian Cool Farm Initiative (ACFI), which aims to promote the long-term productivity and quality of broadacre cropping systems in Victoria and New South Wales using low carbon management practices.
“Her collaborative approach allows her to work with people across disciplines, organisations and even international time zones,” Mr Bennett said.
“Cassie is an academic who has made a conscientious effort to ensure that her work translates into tangible benefits for growers.
“She utilises cutting-edge technologies to address fundamental soil productivity issues.
“According to those who know her well, she is thorough to the ninth degree, she is dedicated to supporting growers in their quest to improve profitability and she’s not afraid to go the extra mile to ensure her research message hits the target.
“If there’s a knowledge or research gap, or an obstacle to practice change, Cassie will identify it, understand it and work hard to have it addressed.”
Dr Schefe is the author of an exhaustive list of publications, including journal and conference papers and various reports, holds an adjunct Senior Research Fellow position at Monash University and in her spare time co-supervises PhD students at Monash University and The University of Melbourne.
“Cassie, we are truly grateful for all that you have done and continue to do, to further our industry,” Mr Bennett said when presenting the award.
“As a most worthy recipient of this Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award, you receive a financial scholarship that can be used for travel or another agreed activity to further your skills and expertise.
“You will be provided with an opportunity to network and strengthen linkages with other world-leading researchers to identify relevant research and technologies for potential adoption here in Australia.”