Vale Mick Poole

September 7th, 2022

Mick Poole passed away peacefully on Sunday 4 September 2022 aged 79 after a 5-month battle with painful cancer. Mick’s career in CSIRO followed a successful career with the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia. After retirement from CSIRO he held positions at the University of Western Australia, the WA Biodiversity Science Institute and Swan River Trust.

The years in the West Australian Department of Agriculture

Mick graduated in Agricultural Science from the University of Western Australia in 1964, sponsored by the cadetship programme of the West Australian Department of Agriculture (WADA, now Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development). He has written of his appreciation of that opportunity, which provided him with a most rewarding career in the department during an era when agriculture was expanding rapidly, both in area farmed, and in the scale of production.

Over the thirty years with WADA he worked in the Plant Research Division, in areas as diverse as pastures, new crops, weeds and reduced tillage, as well as in some of the Department’s overseas projects and new industries. To each he brought an appreciation of the issue, articulated it within the broader industry context, and knew how to draw on the specialist skills of others. He held positions as leader of various research teams, as Ministerial adviser, Director of Enterprise Development, and then Executive Director of Plant Industries, until leaving in 1994 to take up a new position in CSIRO.

Mick had a particular capacity for bringing others together in collaborative teams focussed on a common problem, identifying practical solutions to the difficulties of farming in West Australia’s challenging soils and climates. This period spanned several exciting but complex initiatives such as the introduction of canola (rapeseed) into WA farming systems, and the adoption of direct seeding, in which WA led the rest of Australia, and has since become standard farming practice, enormously reducing wind erosion from cropped farmland. His style was always collaborative and understated, immensely competent and ideally suited to the later roles he undertook in CSIRO and elsewhere.

CSIRO years

Mick was appointed to CSIRO as Executive Chair of the Centre for Environment and Life Sciences (formerly Laboratory for Rural Research) that included staff from the Divisions of Animal Production, Entomology, Forestry, Plant Industry and Soils. He also served as Merger Chair of CSIRO Land and Water and a Program Leader for the Division of Plant Industry. As in WADA, Mick brought scientists and industry to work together to focus on issues of regional and national importance. For example, he brought together scientists and farmers to improve the production of crops, particularly wheat, for the high-rainfall zone of WA in a project funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). While at CSIRO, Mick was a member of the Board of GRDC and chair of its research committee, and a Director of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Plant Based Management of Dryland Salinity and its successor the Future Farm Industries CRC. After retirement, Mick continued to serve CSIRO as an Honorary Research Fellow.


On addition to continuing as an Honorary Research Fellow of CSIRO, Mick was appointed as an Honorary Research Associate of the School of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Western Australia in which capacity he helped the university to successfully bid for the CRC for Honey Bee Products. He also was appointed by the Government of WA as Chairman of the Board of WA Biodiversity Science Institute in Perth. He is also a long-serving member of the Board of the Swan River Trust.

Mick’s contributions to agriculture have been recognised with the awards of Urrbrae Medal, Farrer Medal, Centenary Medal and Member (AM) of the Order of Australia. Mick was also a Fellow of the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) and Agricultural Institute of Australia (FAIAS).

We welcome stories from friends and colleagues who would like to share their memories of Mick. Please email

His funeral will be held on Tuesday 20th September 2022 at 2.30 pm in the Norfolk Chapel, Karrakatta Cemetery.