BURNS, Helen

Research interests

  • Plant-soil interactions
  • Mixed farming systems
  • Delivering research to end users through active learning, i.e. building knowledge and confidence to prompt practice change


Optimising crop and pasture production potential through improved understanding of soil and landscape capacity has been a focus of Ms Burns’ investigations, predominantly in the mixed farming systems of central and southern NSW. She has a background in agronomy and soil science and experience in both research, development and extension, working closely with producers, producer groups, public and private sector advisors, researchers and Research and Development Corporations. Experience in mixed farming systems includes field investigation of acid soils and nutrient response, evaluating pasture species and livestock production, and development and delivery of extension programs.  More recently her research has highlighted the undetected acidification occurring in the most productive agricultural regions of central and southern NSW, specifically the impact on nodulation and productivity of grain legumes. She was part of the NSW DPI team that developed and delivered the national NSW DPI/Dairy Australia TopFodder Silage program.


  • B.Sc. Ag  (Hons) University of New England (1979)

Current projects

Focus on improved management of soil acidity in arable and non-arable landscapes, under grazing and cropping systems:

  • Promote new techniques to identify and manage subsurface acidity and pH stratification.
  • Develop framework with growers and industry to measure and monitor soil pH in the soil subsurface layers.
  • Establish legacy sites to enable quantification of the impact of subsurface acidity on major crop and pasture species.

Recent publications

  • Burns HM and Norton MR (2018) Subsurface acidity threatens central and southern NSW cropping areas. In: Proceedings National Soil Science Conference, Canberra, 2018.
  • Burns HM and Norton MR (2018) Legumes in Acidic Soils: maximising production potential in south eastern Australia. Grains Research and Development Corporation and NSW Department of Primary Industry.  https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/all-publications/publications/2018/legumes-in-acidic-soils
  • Burns HM, Norton MR, Tyndall P (2017) Reduced nodulation of faba bean on acidic soils; the role of topsoil pH stratification. In: Proceedings of the 18th Australian Agronomy Conference, Ballarat, Australia.
  • Scott BJ, Conyers MK, Burns HM, Evans CM, Fettell NA (2017) Stratification of acidity in the shallow soil surface - experiences in the cropping areas of southern and central NSW. In: Proceedings of the 18th Australian Agronomy Conference, Ballarat, Australia.

Professional associations and activities

  • Committee Member of the NSW Grassland Society
  • Board member of Holbrook Landcare Network

Fields of research

  • 050302 Land Capability and Soil Degradation
  • 070101 Agricultural Land Management
  • 070299 Animal Production
  • 070302 Agronomy
  • 070306 Crop and Pasture Improvement

Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC)

Keyword/phrase list of research interests

  • Soil acidity
  • Plant/soil interactions
  • Permanent pasture
  • Mixed farming systems

Contact details

Email: helen.burns@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Phone: (02) 6938 1947
Location: Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga