Professor John Blackwell – The Happy Seeder Revolution

John grew up in Rhodesia and graduated from the Writtle Agricultural College in Essex in 1966. He joined CSIRO 1968, and while at the now closed Griffith (NSW) Laboratory was instrumental in designing technologies to improve the efficiency of irrigation, waste and saline water treatment, and tillage. In this last-mentioned area, John participated in an ACIAR project in the early 2000s in Punjab State of India to develop the “Happy Seeder”. Attached to a small tractor, this allowed the direct drilling of wheat into the heavy rice stubble immediately post rice harvest. It eliminates the need to burn the rice residues, something which had serious adverse public health effects. Direct seeding of wheat brings many other advantages, like earlier planting, energy and water saving, and less greenhouse gas emissions. After many policy-related hurdles, rice straw burning is now illegal, and local manufacture and adoption of the Happy Seeder has boomed. John moved to Charles Sturt University in 2007 as Professor of Innovative Water Technologies. He farms cattle locally and runs a small vineyard near to Griffith.