The Australian cotton industry lost one of its long-time research contributors with the passing of renowned plant pathologist Dr Stephen Allen in 2018. Stephen made major contributions to the understanding, management and control of diseases affecting cotton production in Australia, was recognised as a global leader in dealing with Fusarium Wilt in cotton, and was the father of the cotton industry’s ‘Come Clean-Go Clean’ slogan.
After completing his science degree (First Class Honours and University Medal) and PhD at the University of New England, Stephen joined the NSW Department of Agriculture at Narrabri in 1983, focussed on Bacterial Blight, Verticillium wilt and seedling diseases. He established the annual cotton disease surveys, contributed to the development of an effective seed scheme controlling blight in the very susceptible Deltapine varieties, and was the first to record black root rot on cotton in Australia.
With an ability to understand growers’ needs, Stephen developed disease management strategies and tactics that fitted Australian cotton production systems. His research also included significant contributions on mycorrhizae, microbial fibre damage in rain-delayed harvests, control strategies for Verticillium Wilt, and a major role in formulating and implementing the Australian cotton industry response to the escalating threat of Fusarium Wilt. He also completed an exhaustive evaluation of seed treatments based on Systemic Induced Resistance.
Seconded to work with the CSIRO cotton breeding team based at ACRI Narrabri since 2008, he played an important role in focusing research into managing Fusarium (including developing and maintaining the F.rank and V.rank systems) as well as researching and developing methods to control other diseases of importance such as Alternaria and black root rot.
Stephen received many awards over his career, including Researcher of the Year in 1990 and again in 2007, and the Honorary Membership Award from Crop Consultants Australia in 2014. He retired from Cotton Seed Distributors in 2015 after 39 years serving the cotton industry and the wider farming community and was included in the Australian Cotton Industry Awards roll of honour in 2016.