Stay tuned: the remaining plenary speakers for the conference will be added soon.

Dr Guna Nachimuthu

NSW DPI; 2017 Early Career Scientist Award Recipient 

‘On-farm and off-farm sustainability: Everything you don’t want to hear from a fibre refugee’

Dr Guna Nachimuthu is a Research Scientist at NSW Department of Primary Industries, Narrabri. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Agriculture (Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry) from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India. Guna undertook his PhD studies at The University of New England, focusing on P management in organic production where he conducted studies to quantify the P contribution of legume residues to subsequent corn.

After completing his PhD in 2008, he started working as a greenhouse manager in commercial organic vegetable production firm for two years. Guna moved to Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries as a Project Scientist where he worked on quantifying the implications of adopting improved management practices to reduce offsite water quality impacts in a cropping system characterised by sugarcane and intensive vegetable or legume rotations. Guna joined Australian Cotton Research Institute (NSW DPI) in 2014. Guna now leads a project that aims at minimising the yield variability in cotton and is involved in range of projects encompassing soil productivity and sustainability in a cropping systems context. He was awarded the Early Career Scientist Award at the 2017 Australian Cotton Research Conference in Canberra.

Dr Paxton Payton

USDA-ARS Cropping Systems Research Laboratory, Lubbock, Texas USA

‘Challenges in Genetic Improvement of Abiotic Stress Tolerance: The ups and downs (mostly downs) of a candidate gene and pathway approach’

Dr. Paxton Payton is a plant physiologist with a Ph.D. in Biology from Texas Tech University. He joined the USDA-ARS Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in 2002 and is and adjunct professor in the Departments of Biology and Plant and Soil Sciences at Texas Tech. His primary research is aimed at understanding molecular and physiological factors that influence abiotic stress tolerance. Of particular interest is how plants acclimate to drought and temperature stress and the development of crop management tools that allow growers to monitor stress and take advantage of plant acclimation responses to maximize yields with limited inputs.

In addition to developing irrigation scheduling tools, Dr. Payton’s laboratory is examining germplasm for specific traits related to acclimation in collaboration with researchers in Australia. They are studying cultivar response to elevated CO2, high temperature, and drought in both greenhouse and field studies in both countries. This work includes current elite cultivars, breeding lines, and transgenic cotton genotypes engineered for improved stress tolerance.

Dr Ian Taylor

Cotton Research and Development Corporation 

‘A Researchers Odyssey’

Dr Ian Taylor has extensive experience across the cotton RD&E pipeline, having worked as a researcher specialising in integrated weed management before progressing to management positions within the cotton industry’s extension program, CottonInfo and CRDC. Prior to being appointed Executive Director, Dr Taylor performed the role of CRDC’s General Manager of R&D Investments for a period of five years, overseeing CRDC’s investment in cotton RD&E to deliver impact and leading the development of the CRDC Strategic RD&E Plan 2018-2023.

Dr Taylor holds BAppSc and PhD degrees from the University of Queensland, is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, and is Deputy Chair of the Summit Community Services board. He has extensive stakeholder management, strategy development, leadership and governance experience, combined with national and international networks, in part from his time as the Technology Development Lead and Asia-Pacific Technical and Stewardship Lead with Monsanto. In his former career, Dr Taylor was an avionics technician in the Australian Defence Force, where he developed a sound understanding of digital and advanced complex systems.

Mary O’Brien

Mary O’Brien Rural

‘Are you bogged mate?’

Mary O’Brien is a passionate advocate for agriculture. Being raised on the land, she understands the diverse challenges faced by the rural sector.  Since 1992, Mary has lived in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, where she has gained an in-depth knowledge of the local farming systems and built extensive networks throughout the Australian agricultural sector. In previous roles, Mary has worked in chemical use and best practice across most regions of Queensland and New South Wales and with a range of agricultural industries. These include row cropping, horticulture, intensive animals, grazing, apiaries, viticulture, and aquaculture. Mary, also widely known as ‘Spray Drift Girl’, now works as a private consultant conducting spray application and drift management workshops around Australia. Mary is also a myBMP (Cotton Best Management Practices) accredited advisor.