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Dr Rob Bramley

Senior Principal Research Scientist - Precision Agriculture; Site Leader - CSIRO Waite Campus


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Dr Rob Bramley is a Senior Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO’s Integrated Agricultural Systems program, leads the 'Precision Agriculture and Viticulture Team' and is the Site Leader for CSIRO at Waite Campus, Adelaide. He has worked as a soil chemist, on land-use sustainability issues, and since 1996, has had a primary research focus on Precision Agriculture (PA) and the management of variability in agricultural production systems for economic and environmental benefits. He has led significant multi-agency PA projects in the Australian wine and sugar sectors and has been a pioneer in the development of Precision Viticulture for winegrape production systems. Currently he is working on improved understanding of wine 'terroir' and is part of an international project dealing with grape yield estimation. He also leads 'Future Farm', a multi-agency, GRDC-funded initiative which aims to re-examine and improve the way in which soil and crop sensors are used to inform decisions on the management of inputs to grain productionand to provide a way of automating the process from data acquisition, through analysis, to the formulation and implementation of decision options. Whilst the initial focus is on improving the efficiency and profitability of applied N, Future Farm is not a nutrition project per se. Rather, the main research focus is on the adaptive generation of site-specific management models through increased and improved use of in-season field monitored data (soil, crop, climatic), historic on-farm data, external public and private data and automation of decision rules in software that may potentially be linked to real-time application equipment. Through these various initiatives, he actively contributes to CSIRO's engagement in 'Digital Agriculture'.

Current activities

Dr Rob Bramley is currently leading research on vineyard variability and on the application of precision agriculture in grains production.

Dr Bramley's research interests are in understanding how knowledge of variability in the biophysical environment in which crops are grown can be used to tailor crop production and subsequent processing to meet yield, quality and environmental targets - at both within-field, farm and regional scales.

He has been involved in precision agriculture research since 1996, and has been instrumental in the development of precision viticulture techniques and zonal vineyard management.

Dr Bramley believes that precision agriculture should be regarded as a generic approach to crop production in which spatial information about the production system is used to make better management decisions than would be possible without that information.

For example, a precision viticulture approach to winegrape production recognises that because a vineyard is variable in terms of soil properties and topography, managing it as though it is uniform, as in the conventional approach, is unlikely to deliver the best outcomes.

Instead, high resolution spatial information about the land and vine performance is used to identify areas for differential management. Such information may be derived from high resolution proximal soil sensing, remote and proximal plant canopy sensing and yield and crop quality monitoring.

This approach is likely to deliver benefits to growers in terms of more efficient use of production inputs and natural resources and reduced risk of on-farm and off-farm degradation. In viticulture, it also has potential to provide a robust basis for the concept of 'terroir'. For example, in recent research, Bramley has demonstrated that 'rotundone', the compound responsible for the peppery flavour and aroma of some cool climate Shiraz wines, is spatially variable at the within-vineyard scale, with the patterns of this variation stable from year to year in spite of large fluctuations in the annual mean concentration. He has also shown how this variation is related to variation in the land (soil, topography) underlying the vineyard.

Of particular importance is the fact that, through strategies such as selective harvesting, a precision viticulture approach provides opportunities for processors such as winemakers, for product differentiation and improved responsiveness to market demand. Dr Bramley has demonstrated the profitability of such strategies in the wine industry where they are increasingly common. In the rotundone example above, understanding of vineyard variability afford opportunities in certain seasons to control wine pepperiness through actions in the vineyard. Similar opportunities likely exist in other crop and horticultural sectors.

In the late 1990's, Dr Bramley was involved in early work which sought to apply precision agriculture in sugarcane production systems.

Industry circumstances at the time meant that this work did not proceed, but over the last 10 years, Dr Bramley led research which sought to equip the sugar industry with the expertise to extract both value and environmental benefit from the use of precision agriculture approaches.

Dr Bramley is the author of over 380 papers and other articles including 69 in refereed international journals and has been an invited speaker at international and industry meetings on many occasions in New Zealand, USA, France, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and India in addition to Australia. He has an ISI h-index of 27 and Google Scholar h-index of 39 (Mar 2022). A full publications listing is available on request.

In 2018, Dr Bramley was appointed Adjunct Professor at The University of Tasmania / Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.

Current Roles

  • Site Leader
    CSIRO Waite Campus

  • Team Leader
    Precision Agriculture/Viticulture

Academic Qualifications

  • 2016

    Cert. Exec Management and Development
    Univ. NSW

  • 2007

    Diploma - Company Director's Course
    Australian Institute of Company Directors

  • 1989

    PhD Soil Science
    Massey University, NZ

  • 1985

    BSc Hons (II.i) Soil and Land Resource Science
    The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Professional Experiences

  • 2012-now

    Site Leader
    CSIRO Waite Campus

  • 2013-2014

    Business Lead - SROM Project

  • 2012-2014

    Member, divisional leadership team
    CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

  • 2012-2014

    Chair, divisonal 'Site Leader's forum'
    CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

  • 2010-2014

    Site Leader
    CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems / Ecosystem Sciences

  • 2005-2009

    Research Group Leader
    CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems

  • 2000-2006

    Research Leader
    CRC Viticulture

  • 1998-now

    Snr Research Scientist / Principal Research Scientist / Senior Principal Research Scientist
    CSIRO Land and Water / Sustainable Ecosystems / Ecosystem Sciences / Agriculture Flagship / Agriculture and Food, Waite Campus, Adelaide

  • 1996-1998

    Sub-Program Leader
    CRC Sugar

  • 1992-1998

    Research Scientist / Senior Research Scientist
    CSIRO Soils / Land and Water, Townsville

  • 1990-1992

    Research Scientist
    CSIRO Animal Production, Perth

Achievements and Awards

  • 2018-

    ASVO Excellence Awards: Dr Peter May Award (inaugral winner) - awarded for the paper published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research with the greatest number of citations over the previous 5 years
    Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology

  • 2018-

    Life Membership
    SPAA - Society of Precision Agriculture, Australia

  • 2017-

    President's Medal - Research
    Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists

  • 2012-

    ASVO Excellence Awards: Winemaking Paper of the Year (inaugral winner) - awarded for the paper published during the previous year in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research deemed likely to have greatest industry impact
    Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology

Other highlights

  • 2009-2009

    Wine Industry Future Leaders Program: Future Leaders – Succession for the Australian Wine Sector.

We have publications by Dr Rob Bramley