Fifty years in agriculture takes researcher to top echelons
A PASSION for improving one of Australia's most important industries is engrained in Greg Platz but you won't find a straw of ambition in his body.
The son of a "tough old German farmer” at Clifton, Mr Platz was told to go and find a job where he wouldn't rely on the weather for his income.
So Mr Platz took his dad's advice and went on to spend five decades dedicated to helping those who did.
From humble roots to the top echelon of agricultural research in Queensland, Mr Platz has watched the past 50 years fly by in a career built on compassion for farmers.
"(Growing up on the land) has given me a strong empathy for the risks and the lives the farmers lead and if I can help them in any way, I am happy to do so,” he said.
In his decades-long career with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Platz has mentored younger scientists and spearheaded research projects that improve disease resistance in winter cereals like oats, barley and wheat.
The trickle-on effects of his work stem beyond farmers and into the kitchen cupboards and baking tins of people throughout Australia and the world.
"Our work involves anything you can do to limit the amount of disease in those crops,” Mr Platz said.
Recently, he was made an adjunct professor of the University of Queensland and awarded a customer focus achievement award for his ability to deliver outcomes that made a real difference to farms and the agricultural industry.
With pride, he recounted how his team's biggest Australian client, InterGrain, said it was the best in Australia.
A keen sportsman, he also played rugby league for Australia at the height of his footballing career, which began with the Wattles Warrior RLC.
But trophies and accolades were never the end-goal for Mr Platz, whose work ethic was instilled at a young age.
"I am not ambitious and I am not the brightest bloke on the block but I am prepared to put in the hard yards to make a difference,” he said.
Speaking at his anniversary celebration yesterday, Mr Platz thanked the scientist who took him under his wing 50 years ago.
After a short-lived stint at teacher's college, Mr Platz applied for a job with the Queens-land Wheat Research Institute in Toowoomba when he was17.
It was there acclaimed plant pathologist Dr Bob Rees took Mr Platz under his wing and taught him the ropes.
Professor of crop nematology at the University of Southern Queensland John Thompson remembers the athletic and enthusiastic young recruit who would run into the grain plots at lightning pace.
"We're celebrating 50 years but I reckon DPI (now DAF) has gotten about 100 years of service out of Greg,” Professor Thomspon said.
As scores of colleagues and friends thanked Mr Platz for his contribution, the man himself looked back on his life and career with great appreciation.
"Sometimes I jump in the car to go out and do crop surveys and think to myself 'fancy getting paid to do this',” he said.
"I am a lucky man and I just treasure the way I have grown up and the path I have taken through life.”