Dr Ian Rochester (Rocky) was a Glen Innes native who arrived in Narrabri in 1982 after finishing an Agriculture degree in Armidale. He was a technician with Greg Constable for a few years before undertaking a PhD in Canberra, before returning to Narrabri to begin research in cotton nitrogen nutrition and crop rotation at Narrabri with collaboration with people in Canberra.
He passed away in September 2015.
Rocky had a long and distinguished career as a cotton nutrition scientist with CSIRO, based at the Australian Cotton Research Institute near Narrabri. Over this time, he evolved a broad research program to understand and improve nutrition of cotton through innovative cropping. Rocky’s pioneering work on nitrogen mineralisation in the soil demonstrated the importance of different forms of nitrogen fertiliser and underpins our current understanding of nutrition in cotton production systems. His research evolved to include improved use of soil and petiole diagnostic tests, development of NutriLOGIC to support growers with interpretation of nutritional tests and pioneering research assessing nitrogen use efficiency.
Rocky’s initial research identified that approximately a third of the growers assessed were over fertilising for nitrogen. Subsequent work showed that up to 50 percent of nitrogen fertiliser applied to cotton crops can be lost, including a significant portion through nitrous oxide emissions. Through the development of innovative cotton cropping systems incorporating a legume phase, Rocky’s research demonstrated scope for substantial reductions in N fertiliser inputs into Australian cotton fields, also minimising greenhouse gas emissions – without reducing yields. Rocky’s work has had a hugely positive impact on the Australian cotton industry, strongly influencing both grower practice and the debate around optimising nutrition to maximise yield and minimise losses and emissions.
In recent years, Rocky had been working towards retirement on the coast, publishing his most recent research and starting preliminary new research on the links between cotton nutrition and genetics to ensure an enduring and fruitful legacy for the future.
Rocky was one of the early founding members of the Australian cotton research community and had been part of the CRDC research fraternity for more than two decades. Rocky was the quintessential cotton researcher: a deep thinker, methodical and committed to his research, unwavering in the conviction of his findings and seeking to make a difference for the cotton industry. Combined with a laconic, sincere and down to earth personality he endeared himself to those that had the privilege to meet and work with him. His passing is a great loss to the cotton industry.