Malem McLeod

Research interests

Water is the most limiting factor for productivity in dryland agriculture. My mission is to find ways to help farmers maximise their productive and sustainable use of water, through research into:

  • how rainfall is captured within the soil, how it is stored, and how it is used by plants
  • factors affecting soil water balance, including management practices, land use and soil fertility.


I was born and educated in Indonesia until 1991 and worked as a lecturer of soil science at the University of Jenderal Soedirman, Purwokerto in Central Java, Indonesia. In 1991, I was awarded an IDP scholarship for a Master’s degree in soil physics at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. This was followed by a PhD scholarship from the Meat Research Corporation for soil hydrology under temperate pastures at the University of New England, Armidale.

I started working at DPI in 1999 as a technical officer in a deep drainage/dryland salinity project. At the same time, I was completing my PhD thesis, which had a strong component in soil physics and soil hydraulic parameterisation for use in physical-based soil hydrology models. In 2000 I was appointed as a hydrologist modeller for the deep drainage project, followed by appointment as a research hydrologist for the Farm Forestry Unit in NSW DPI in 2002.

After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, I worked in two soil and crop rehabilitation projects in Aceh, followed by two development projects to improve soil and crop productivities in the lowland and dryland farming systems in Aceh. These projects were all co-founded by ACIAR.

Since 2005, I have developed an interest in soil carbon and using amendments including biochar to improve soil and crop productivity; I would like to pursue and link this interest with soil water.

I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and have Certificate IV qualifications in training and assessment, which I used to conduct writing workshops for scientists and university students from Indonesia and DPI teams.


  • Doctor of Philosophy in soil physics and pasture hydrology, The University of New England (UNE), Armidale, 2003
  • Master of Business Administration (International Business and Human Resources Management), UNE, Armidale 2011
  • Master of Land Resources Studies majoring in soil physics, The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, 1993
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Land Resource Studies, UQ, 1992
  • Bachelor of Agricultural Science, IPB, Bogor, Indonesia, 1987
  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
  • Skills in characterising soil physical and hydraulic properties for use in physical-based soil water balance models such as SWIM and HYDRUS: I have recently acquired capital items to characterise soil texture, saturated soil hydraulic conductivity and limited soil water retention points, which I plan to use across relevant DPI research projects.
  • A user of the APSIM farming system model
  • I am a user of and have access to DPI’s capital equipment for deep soil coring and soil water measurements such as neutron moisture meter and EM38 MK2.

Current projects

Recent publications  

Professional associations and activities

Research fields

  • 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
  • 0503 Soil Sciences (05) Soil Physics

Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC)

Contact details

Phone: 02 6763 1457
Location: Tamworth Agricultural Institute