Distinguished Pathologist honoured for International Agricultural Research

22 October 2012

Eminent plant pathologist and internationally recognised expert on the biology and control of Fusarium diseases, Professor Lester Burgess has received the prestigious Crawford Fund Medal for International Agricultural Research at the Crawford Fund Parliamentary Conference 2012 in Canberra.

Burgess is a distinguished alumnus and Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney, and a former Dean of Agriculture.

Career details at

"I have spent most of my career at Sydney University a student and staff member. Many of my professors became mentors," he says. After completing a PhD in plant pathology on Fusarium crown rot of wheat he went on to post doctoral work at UC Berkeley and Cornell University, returning home in 1971 as a lecturer in plant pathology. He was awarded a Personal Chair in 1999. Professor Burgess initiated the Faculty's involvement with capacity-building activities in Vietnam in the early 1990s, and this continuing program has brought many students to the Faculty and a wide range of ACIAR, ATSE Crawford Fund and AusAID projects.

Extract from Crawford Fund Citation

Professor Burgess has been involved with the Crawford Fund for just on 20 years. He convened the first Crawford Master Class on the biology and management of crop diseases caused by soil-borne fungal pathogens. He has since convened or participated in Crawford Master Classes in Indonesia, Turkey, China, Tunisia as well as Australia.

He has also delivered hands-on training for Crawford in other ways. These include formal courses of instruction as well as less structured (but still intensive) mentoring and capacity building of groups of promising scientists in many other countries including China, Indonesia, Laos, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey and Vietnam. In 2003 he received a medal for his contribution to rural development in Vietnam.

In 2009, he started working with a group of struggling young, female plant pathologists comprising the Plant Protection Centre in Vientiane. With Crawford funding support, and that of his wife Jillian, he has spent lengthy periods in Laos each year improving the professional skills and English of this group by working with them to diagnose and identify the management options of real-world plant diseases.

As well, building on earlier Crawford Master Class relationships, Professor Burgess (again with Jillian) has been working in Tunisia with a group of remarkable scientists involved with soil borne diseases of wheat. Earlier this year, he spent three months there with them, in labs and in the field establishing trials, and convening a North African Fusarium workshop. He has plans to return regularly.

All this on top of a distinguished career educating and training young scientists in agriculture at Sydney University, mainly Australian but with many post grads from developing countries. Not to mention an extensive engagement in Indonesia and Vietnam with ACIAR projects.

The Crawford Fund is pleased to honour the contributions of Professor Lester Burgess to International Agricultural Research.

Honorary Professor Lester Burgess receiving the Crawford Fund Medal from John Kerin AM FTSE, Chair of the Board of the Crawford Fund
Honorary Professor Lester Burgess receiving the Crawford Fund Medal from John Kerin AM FTSE, Chair of the Board of the Crawford Fund

Contact: Ms Skaidy Gulbis

Phone: 02 8627 1006

Email: 2038155f56491d26160d2d3305103e2e021f3d1879110644012034