The theme of the Sixth Australian Agronomy Conference is 'Looking Back - Planning Ahead'. In 'Looking Back' at the Forewords and themes of previous Conferences the reader notes, from an admittedly small database, an apparent cycle between practical and more philosophical approaches. The First Conference (1980) adopted the theme 'Pathways to Productivity'. It was followed in 1982 by 'Assessing the Need for Change' and, in 1985, by 'Crop and Pasture Production - Science and Practice'.
The Fourth Conference tilled familiar ground with 'Agronomy 1987 - Responding to Change' while the Fifth, scheduled for September 1989 but held in February 1990, espoused no overall philosophy but focussing on 'concerns for the environment, concerns with markets and...interest in the current infra-structure for agricultural research'.
Overall, these meetings have reflected the involvement of agronomists as professionals concerned with developing agricultural systems and conscious of the need to promote the adoption of emergent technologies in the dual quest for productivity and sustainability.
In adopting its theme of 'Looking Back - Planning Ahead', the Management Com mittee for the present Conference has recognised the emergence of new questions surrounding the sustain-ability of agricultural systems and, through the Conference program, seeks to emphasise the need for agronomists and other agricultural professionals to take a long-term view when addressing problem areas. Many such problems have taken decades to develop; they will only be solved by reviewing the lessons of the past and by letting experience guide planning for the future. Happily, the breadth and depth of interests represented by its members places the Society in an excellent position to contribute to current and future debate on these issues.
The Committee has sought to structure the Conference in such a way that the main focus in Plenary Sessions can be enhanced by a majority of the contributed papers and, in response to feedback from members, has paid considerable attention lo providing opportunities for those wishing to make oral and poster presentations.
The outgoing (Perth) Committee felt, strongly, that the Society should pay greater attention to enhancing the quality of papers presented to the Conference, and published in the Proceedings, and that papers should only be accepted from those actually intending to take part in the meeting. These are not objectives which can be completely attained within one Conference cycle, but the Committee has been able to implement rigorous procedures which provide a basis for further development in the future.
What then of 'Planning Ahead'? Enhancing the status of the biennial Conference, the Society's main commitment, will remain a prime objective. It may not, however, be adequate for gaining recognition of what John Leslie, in the Foreword to the First Australian Agronomy Conference, perceived as 'the integrating role of agronomy in increasing the productivity of Australian agriculture'. Immediate Past President, Walter Stern, has urged the development of a Corporate Plan for the Society. The Management Committee has made less progress in this direction than it had hoped. However, as Agronomy Societies proliferate around the World it may be timely to promulgate such a Plan and develop formal links with sister Societies both long-established (North America) and neophyte (Europe). Through these, and other, initiatives the Society may gain a fuller maturity during this, the second decade of its existence.
On behalf of the Management Committee.
President, Australian Society of Agronomy Conference.