AN UNASSUMING man, Kevin Kelly was most at home out in the paddock and preferred a field day to an office conference.
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.
He had spent many years working at the former research institute at Kyabram and later at the Tatura office of Agriculture Victoria.
Kyabram farmer Terry Hehir recalled Mr Kelly was passionate about plants and pastures and was respected for his considerable knowledge.
“He didn’t speak a great deal but when he did you could be sure it was really well grounded and backed by good evidence,” Mr Hehir said.
Kevin Bernard Kelly was born in 1955 in Euroa.
Mr Kelly graduated from University of Melbourne 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 University of Melbourne 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 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 and 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.
He leaves his wife Naomi, sons David, Aaron and Cameron, daughter Louise and grandchildren Emma and James.