Dr Nilantha Hulugalle graduated from a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (honours) and PhD in soil physics from Latrobe University, Victoria in 1979 and 1985 respectively. Nilantha worked in several countries in Africa (Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkino Faso) as part of his post-doctoral and early career soil physicist roles at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture between 1983 and 1991.

Nilantha joined the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australian Cotton Research Institute, Narrabri in 1992 where he led the soil research program until 2014. He was a certified professional soil scientist (CPSS stage 3, leading professional) from 2006 to 2016. Nilantha led several CRDC and Cotton CRC-funded projects on soil and crop rotation research. Within his soil management and crop rotations research, Nilantha specialised in carbon sequestration science, rotation crop stubble management, cotton root growth, hydrology and soil water storage in cotton cropping systems. His publications have received more than 3400 citations.

Nilantha established a long-term crop sequencing experiment under minimum tillage in 2002 at Australian Cotton Research Institute. The work on long-term soil carbon changes in the cotton farming system is unique and is the only long-term research work that is still in progress within the Australian cotton farming system. During his career, he mentored a number of honours, postgraduate students and other scientists in the cotton soil research program.

Nilantha retired as Principal Scientist in 2015. Since retirement, Nilantha has been working as Honorary Fellow at the Australian National University.