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Address opening council and executive committee meeting of international society for horticultural science, international conference centre, Canberra

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11 August 1978





11 AUGUST 1978.

I am honoured to open this meeting of your Society in

Canberra, a meeting which I understand is closely associated

with the XX!th International Horticultural Congress commencing

in Sydney next week. ;.

On behalf of the people and Government of Australia I should

like to extend a cordial welcome to those of you who are

distinguished visitors to our country, and to the Australian

delegates to the meeting.

This is the first occasion the Society has arranged for the

Congress, its Council and Executive meetings to be held outside

the traditional areas of Europe and North America, and

we fully appreciate the opportunity to act as your host.

I note with interest that since its foundation in 1959, the

Society has developed into an international organisation with

membership embracing 47 countries, 200 affiliated organisations,

and some 1750 individual members.

The Society's objective of promoting international co-operation

in the study of horticultural problems is most laudable,

particularly in view of current concern in providing adequate

food stocks for ah increasing world population.


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Meetings, symposia and seminars arranged by the Society

have been held in 14 different countries within the past

twelve months, reflecting the importance of the Society's

work and the interest and participation of its members.

Although it is somewhat disadvantaged by the tyranny of distance

from taking a more active role in the Society's work, Australia

is strongly represented.

Ours is one of the oldest land masses on earth, with an area

of 7.6 million square kilometres — nearly as large as the

U.S.A. and half again the size of Europe — lying in both

tropical and temperate latitudes.

Topographically, Australia is the flattest of the continents

with an average altitude of about 300 metres.

Climatically, it is one of the world's driest continents

although areas in the north are influenced by monsoonal rains

and its winter snowfields cover an area larger than the

Swiss Alps.

It is possible to grow almost all the world's main commercial

horticultural crops in Australia but, because of its particular

climatic and geological features, some adaptation has been

necessary leading to the development of extensive horticultural

research prgrammes.

Australian contributions to research and the development of

horticultural science reflect the need to adapt introduced

species of fruits and vegetables to our environment.

It should be noted that, apart from the macadamia, Australia

has virtually no indigenous fruit and vegetable genera of

commercial significance. Its horticultural industries are

based almost exclusively on introductions from other countries.

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Those industries this year are expected to produce crops

with a gross value of some $3710 million — successful

adaptation indeed.

Horticulture is really the basis of life itself. The plant

stocks which your science develop and adapt provide staple

food for mankind, for his livestock, cleanse the very

air we breathe.

Yours are the basic sciences. Today, when environmental

issues are assuming greater significance within the community,

there are many who seem to think that these original sciences

are only now becoming known.

That of course is not so. Horticultural science has always

meant the preservation of life and nature.

Australia is a major exporter of primary produce and the

product of your science is of immense importance to us.

Australia is only now emerging from a period of economic decline.

Inflation is being brought under control and there are

somewhat brighter market prospects for our agricultural


The Commonwealth Government is intent on strengthening that

trend, but continued success depends to a large extent upon

our ability to sell on overseas markets our products, products

your science generates.

Considerations of trade and international barriers to trade

are, perhaps, outside the scope of your deliberations today

but it is as well to remember that if Australia is to make

a contribution in your sphere and in others, we must be able to

sell our products.

It is not only those who live in the country who benefit

from advances in horticultural science, but city dwellers

as well.



In Australian cities there is a strong home-owning drive

among householders who seek to beautify their homes with trees,

shrubs and flowers of beweildering variety.

Plant nurseries have become a significant business which,

in addition to their importance to the environment, are also

popular socially.

The size of the Australian continent, its climate and location

provided plant breeders with opportunity to develop varieties

with a wider production period than in northern hemisphere


Australian members will, of course, be interested in progress

on legislation towards plant variety protection. This item

was discussed at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting

in Sydney this week.

Western Australian, in particular, feels it desirable that

there should be Commonwealth-State complementary legislation.

There is difficulty in drafting completely uniform conditions of

protection in these circumstances. It is therefore probable

that the Commonwealth will proceed with the introduction of

its legislation, although this matter is now finally to be

resolved following consideration of the objections lodged by

Western Australia within Agricultural Council.

Some of Australia1s contributions to horticultural research

and development should, I think, be briefly noted.

In the citrus industry, Australia in the 1840s had a large

collection of orange cultivars. By careful selection the

numbers have been reduced and varieties now grown have proven

high yield and quality characteristics.

In addition, advances have been made in the control of citrus

virus diseases, root rot and scale infestation.

The apple industry in Australia has developed effective post

harvest treatments to extend storage life, assisting exports

to northern hemisphere markets.

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Apple cultivars originating in Australia and now well known

overseas include the Granny Smith, Democrat, Crofton, King Cole

and Tasman Pride.

Additionally the Packham Triumph pear has also been well received

on overseas markets.

Developments in viticulture have reduced the incidence of

vine diseases and helped in the selection of winegrape growing


Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research

Organisation offers excellent examples of the continuing

research effort needed to maintain horticultural industries

at a viable level.

The CSIRO has undertaken research to improve the production

efficiency and marketing quality of a range of tree fruits,

the development of improved grapevine strains to meet

specific economic and environmental conditions, to adapt

new horticultural crops to Australian conditions, and to

study vegetative and reproductive growth factors.

The Organisation has also concerned itself with the development

of technology for preserving water quality and the optimum

use of available water resources for irrigation.

Australian agriculture today experiences serious salinity

problems in its main irrigation areas — particularly in

the Murray and Murrumbidgee irrigation areas — and extensive

research into this problem is being carried out in collaboration

with State Governments.

At the Black Mountain Botanic Gardens on Sunday some of you

will have an opportunity to see Australian native flora growing

under cultivated conditions. ,

Australian native flora differs from that of the rest of

the world in that over periods of geologic time it has

successfully adapted to relatively arid conditions. .

6 r · ,

At the same time, very few of our native species — eucalyptus

and macadamia excluded — have proved to be of commercial

interest, although many are sources of genes for other breeding


} · '

We are today much more conscious of the need to preserve

our unique flora and fauna, not only to maintain a satisfactory

environment for ourselves but for the benefit of future


I have no doubt that the objectives of your Society and the

interest and commitment of its members will contribute much

to the achievement of that purpose.

It is now my pleasure to declare your meeting open.