RD Watt Lecture

Image of RD Watt


The annual RD Watt Lecture commemorates the first lecture delivered to University of Sydney agriculture students in March 1911 by Australia’s first Professor of Agriculture, Robert Dickie Watt.

It is a tribute to his strong vision and leadership as the first Dean, as well as to 100 years of world-changing Agriculture at Australia’s first University. Watt developed courses with a strong scientific content which became a characteristic of the Sydney degree.


RD Watt Lecture 2016

Grains of Truth: The role of rice science in humanity's future

Presented by Mr Matthew Morell
Director General, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

From time to time, the world becomes complacent regarding the food security challenge. There are worrying signs we are at such a time - the last major price crisis was in 2008 and global stocks of cereals remain ahead of total demand albeit somewhat precariously.

There are three major areas why investment in grains research, and particularly rice science, is essential to an equitable and just future, free of hunger. First, too many people globally who are reliant on rice production systems in unfavorable production areas still face the dual burden of poverty and hunger.

Secondly, the forces reshaping the socio-economic conditions in rice producing regions apply inexorable pressure to produce more rice to feed more and more people from less - with less land, less labor, and with increasingly scarce water and expensive inputs.

Thirdly, the future of food and nutritional security is balanced on a knife edge. We have been lucky over the last decade not to have wars or social unrest, devastating droughts, or threats from new pests and diseases that have led to widespread famine in key rice producing zones. Global buffering capacity is required to guard against such calamities - it is unethical and foolhardy to rely on being "lucky" in a world where climate change and socio-economic transition threaten the status quo.

In this talk, the role of the international agricultural research for development sector will be discussed in the light of these challenges, with a special focus on the critical importance that continuing to invest in rice science has to support the billion people who rely directly on rice sector for their livelihoods, and the three and a half billion who rely on rice as a staple food in their diet.

Event details

6 to 8pm, Tuesday 8 March 2016
Law Foyer, Level 2, New Law Building, University of Sydney

Drinks and canapés following lecture
RSVP: Monday 29 February 2016

Registrations essential for venue and catering purposes:

Speaker biography
Matthew Morell

Matthew Morell is IRRI’s director general with decades of leadership experience driven by a passion for scientific excellence, an understanding of private-public partnerships, a sound capacity for stakeholder engagement, protection of intellectual property, and people engagement skills.

Prior to assuming the role of director general, Matthew was deputy director general for research, providing strategic leadership to IRRI’s research and outreach programs across various dimensions of rice science, including climate change-ready rice, healthier rice varieties, environmentally sustainable crop farming systems, farmer-friendly crop management and value chain practices, timely and accurate provision of rice information, and building the next generation of rice scientists.

Prior to his senior leadership roles at IRRI, Matthew was a senior research leader for 17 years at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia where he led multi-disciplinary research on cereal and oilseed improvement integrating genetics, quality, human nutrition and food science projects to deliver novel high value products.

He holds BSCAgr (Hons) and PhD degrees in agricultural chemistry from the University of Sydney, and did postdoctoral studies at Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis prior to undertaking a research fellowship at the Australian National University.