working relationship with Adrian and many other almond growers. In the late 1980s the Department of Agriculture proposed commercialising its Extension Service, at which time Ben and a colleague, Dr. Peter Scholefield, saw difficulties with the change. In 1989 Ben and Peter decided to partner and form what became the highly successful horticultural consultancy company, Scholefield Robinson Horticultural Services Pty. Ltd. It wasn’t all smooth sailing as shortly after commencement there was a very quiet period in horticulture, but consultancy work in Asia got them through this period until the wine grape boom. This was followed by the rapid expansion of almond and olive plantings across Australia. Particular highlights through this period for Ben included: Strategic Planning for the winegrape, perennial horticulture and vegetable industries; technical problem solving for fruit and nut growers; international consultancy visits in China, India and the Middle East; collaborative R&D; and the development, authoring and co-editing of lectures, training programs and publications, including the widely recognised CSIRO publication: ‘Plant Analysis: An Interpretation Manual’, co- authored with Doug Reuter. In 2004, Ben retired from Scholefield Robinson to pursue his interests in sailing and travelling, but continued his significant involvement with horticultural industries, none more so than the almond and pistachios industries. Ben’s passion for collaboration, R&D and
Ben Robinson was widely recognised throughout his career as a horticulturist of great knowledge and expertise but importantly it was his service to industry that is celebrated, a role often embarked on in a volunteer capacity, and characterised by personal anonymity. Ben received his Bachelor of Agricultural Science with honours in 1963. In 1964, he was granted a Barr Smith Travelling Scholarship in Agriculture from the University of Adelaide and was awarded his Ph.D. in Botany at Cambridge University in 1967. After returning to Australia Ben was employed as a Horticultural Research Officer with the South Australian Department of Agriculture. His aspirations for continued learning and great admiration for Californian agricultural research saw Ben undertake Post Doctoral study with Professor G.G. Laties from the Department of Biological Sciences, University of California Los Angeles. In 1971, Ben returned to the Department of Agriculture where he held several senior horticultural research roles until 1989. Ben spent the majority of his time investigating fertiliser use and plant nutrition in perennial horticultural crops, vegetables and floriculture; and soil acidification in orchards and vineyards. It was during this period that Ben undertook the first leaf tissue analysis survey in Australian almond orchards to develop a set of bench-mark standards; and Australia’s first nitrogen experiment on almonds at Adrian Lacey’s property in Nildottie. This was the beginning of a long
developing the technical skill set of industry was most certainly one of his greatest contributions to the almond industry. This included his Chairmanship of the Industry Advisory Committee; regular and generous reviews and recommendations for R&D programs and publications; mentoring ABA staff; significant development and editorial contributions to the almond history book, ‘Almonds in Australia: From Pioneer Planting to Prime Production’; and contribution to the Production R&D Sub- Committee. Ben’s greatest achievement was his commitment to collaboration, always promoting and actively pursuing partnerships for the common good. Most notable was in the late 1980s early 1990s after the formation of Horticultural Research & Development Corporation (HRDC). Ben and other key stakeholders met with industry factions to establish an R&D levy, and then in 1990 he was engaged by industry to prepare a draft discussion paper on ‘Research and Development Funding for the Australian Almond Industry’. This work was a significant contribution that began the development of a strong and united almond industry which resulted in the Almond Board of Australia. Ben is a man characterised by generosity, honesty, sincerity and integrity.