Tatura research scientist mourned

By Geoff Adams

Farmers, family and friends are mourning the death of trusted agricultural adviser Kevin Kelly.

Mr Kelly, 62, a senior research scientist, collapsed and died at the Ellinbank National Centre for Dairy Research and Development in Gippsland on Tuesday, July 10, while working with colleagues.

A funeral service for Mr Kelly was held at St Augustine’s Catholic Church, Kyabram, on Tuesday, July 17 and he was interred at Kyabram Lawn Cemetery.

He leaves his wife Naomi, sons David, Aaron and Cameron, daughter Louise and grandchildren Emma and James.

Kevin Bernard Kelly was born in 1955 in Euroa.

He started primary school in Euroa at age four to make up numbers in the rural school so it wouldn’t lose a teacher. The school closed the following year and Kevin completed his primary schooling in Shepparton.

He moved on to secondary schooling which was completed at St Joseph’s in Geelong when the family moved there.

It was there that he became a passionate Cats supporter.

Mr Kelly graduated from Melbourne University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with honours and started work in 1977 in the Department of Agriculture’s district office in Hamilton, in western Victoria.

He was mentored by senior research staff for two years before moving to the Kyabram Research Farm in 1979.

He worked under manager Murray Martin as a plant scientist and developed a core expertise in pasture agronomy, crop water requirements and irrigation scheduling, and in 1983 (the year he married Naomi) he completed a Masters degree from Melbourne University on productivity of annual pastures under irrigation in northern Victoria.

Colleagues said Mr Kelly’s knowledge of irrigated and annual perennial pastures would have been second to none in Australia.

One of his real strengths was he always knew you had to apply research and assistance in context and well understood grazing pressure on production, utilisation and persistence of different pasture species.

Mr Kelly was an integral part of the research groups at Kyabram that transformed the centre from a research farm to the Kyabram Dairy Centre when it was managed by Bruce Cockroft and Warren Mason.

Mr Kelly was passionate about the centre, fought hard to keep it open and was devastated by its closure.

A former manager, Peter Doyle, who managed the centre between 1994 to about 2006, described Mr Kelly as trusted and trusting, humble, dedicated, a good confidant and a good friend.

‘‘He would go the extra mile for his team,’’ Mr Doyle said.

‘‘He was a humble bloke who never promoted himself.

‘‘He sometimes presented with folded arms — but this was just his way.

‘‘Out in the paddock with farmers, he was more relaxed — and they listened.

‘‘I have watched numerous times out in the field, and seen him get more questions than anyone else.’’

Mr Kelly understood the close connection with farmers and he always had farmer and extension officers on reference groups on his projects.

An experienced team leader, in recent years at the Tatura DEDJTR office he spent a lot of time on changes to water availability, maximising water efficiency on annual and perennial pastures.