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 looking within-vineyard yield-quality interactions, opportunities for on-the-go sensing of winegrape quality at harvest and improved understanding of 'terroir'. He leads the CSIRO input to 'Future Farm', a multi-agency, GRDC-funded initiative aimed at improved management on grains and cotton farms through automation and sensing and is also exploring opportunties for location-appropriate management in the sugar sector through the use of data collected bby sugar mills. Through these and other 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 sugarcane and 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.

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 Dr Bramley is now once again leading research which seeks 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 300 papers and other articles including 52 in refereed international journals and has been an invited speaker at international and industry meetings on many occasions. He has an ISI h-index of 22 and Google Scholar h-index of 33 (Sept 2018). His NCI is 1.92 indicating that his work is cited 92% more than the global average for the same research fields, whilst his Disciplinarity Index is 0.137 indicating a broad range of subject focus / disciplinary expertise. 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.