News

New Pulsford Laboratory recognises outstanding alumnus


24 June 2012

David Pulsford, an alumnus of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, and an industry leader in nitrogen fixation, will be honoured with a special award from the Faculty and the opening of a new lab bearing his name. Professor Mark Adams, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, will present the award to David Pulsford on 25 June at the first day of the 16th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference, to be held at Q Station Manly.

Professor Mark Adams, Dean, presenting David Pulsford with the award
Professor Mark Adams, Dean, presenting David Pulsford with the award

David Pulsford has played an important role in nitrogen fixation since the late 1950s and generously supported the SUNFix Centre for Nitrogen Fixation at the University of Sydney, which closed in December 2011, but whose research will continue in the new Pulsford Laboratory. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Sydney, Mr Pulsford worked with nitrogen fixing microbial products in his role at Agricultural Laboratories and later in his own company Bio-Care Technology, set up with business partner Gary Bullard.

"It is most befitting that David Pulsford's name will be entered in the Faculty's Hall of Fame by naming a lab after him, as it allows us to publicly acknowledge the impact he's had in nitrogen fixation in Australia and his long association with the University from the commercial sector," said Emeritus Professor Ivan Kennedy, from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, and organiser of the 16th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference.

"Biological nitrogen fixation is one of the most important biological processes on earth. It allows plants to grow in soils that have low nitrogen, by 'fixing' nitrogen from the air into a form that living things can use. The nitrogen fixing is done by rhizobia - bacteria that can fix nitrogen when living inside nodules on the roots of legume plants," explained Emeritus Professor Kennedy.

Nodules on the roots of legume plants contain rhizobia, the bacteria that can 'fix' nitrogen in the air to make it usable to living things.
Nodules on the roots of legume plants contain rhizobia, the bacteria that can 'fix' nitrogen in the air to make it usable to living things.

"We all rely on biological nitrogen fixation for our food. Nitrogen availability in soils is still the single most crucial limiting nutrient element for food production."

Farmers grow legumes, such as clovers, soybeans and lupins, in fields to increase the biologically available nitrogen in the soil for other crop plants. Agricultural scientists have developed and continue to improve rhizobiuminoculant products needed to form nodules on the roots of legumes.

"David Pulsford is amongst those who responded to the urgent call in 1956 by the late Professor James Vincent - who worked at the University of Sydney and was an international pioneer in legume inoculants - to improve the quality of rhizobiuminoculant products," said Emeritus Professor Kennedy.

"It's quite fitting that Professor Vincent organised the first Australian Legume Nodulation Conference to address the issue of poor quality commercial inoculants purchased by farmers, and now at the 16th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference we will recognise David Pulsford's contribution to Professor Vincent's work."

David Pulsford provided samples of his microbial products to Professor Vincent's University of Sydney and Department of Agriculture Laboratory Service (UDALS), which provided a quality control service ensuring that rhizobium products contained the best strains of microbes in sufficient numbers (about 1011 per hectare). This service set a standard that is still employed today.

Through his company Bio-Care Technology, David Pulsford has supported several Australian Research Council Linkage Projects aimed at improving nitrogen fixation and nitrogen nutrient use efficiency in Australian crops.

Dr Rosalind Deaker, the current Lecturer in Rhizobiology and Nitrogen Fixation in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, is just one of the SUNFix associated staff who have had their research underpinned by Bio-Care's generosity.

More recently, following his retirement, David Pulsford has continued to make generous donations to support the activities of the SUNFix Centre for Nitrogen Fixation. This donor support has literally ensured that this important area of research essential to Australia's agriculture can continue.

"The fact that Australian inoculant production with quality control has now been in operation for 59 years owes much to David Pulsford's dedicated response and skills as its major manager for 50 of those years!" said Emeritus Professor Kennedy.


Contact: Dr Rosalind Deaker

Phone: 02 8627 1049

Email: 300a412a16131e3e69522859025506032231090d0c1f64531d4166364d