Sean Murphy

Research interests

Vadose zone hydrology, water productivity, soil science, pasture and crop agronomy, climate variability.


Sean undertakes hydrology research in pasture and crop systems to develop profitable, adaptive and sustainable primary industries in NSW. His research outcomes lead to both improved water productivity by maximising returns from the use of rainfall and better natural resource management by maintaining functional and productive agro-ecosystems.

Sean joined NSW Agriculture in 1997 to conduct research in the Sustainable Grazing Systems project focussing on the impact that grazing management has on the water balance of native pastures.  Since then, his hydrology research program has made contributions to CRC Salinity, Future Farm Industries CRC and the EverGraze National Program leading to its nomination for a Eureka Prize in 2014. More recently, Sean's hydrology research was a key pillar of the MLA program "Increase feedbase production and quality of subtropical grass-based pastures" focussing on hydrology of tropical grasses and tropical legumes.

Sean’s research program is focused on increasing water productivity in rain-fed grazing and cropping systems by undertaking applied research that develops the science of the water balance. This fundamental knowledge underpins innovative primary industries, boosts productivity and manages risks for natural resources, farming and food. In face of risks from a highly variable climate, agricultural industries are required to adapt and become resilient to make efficient use of available water resources. To that end, the key pillar of my research program is centred on understanding how we can use hydrological science to better manage tropical perennial grasses and legumes in the summer dominant yet variable rainfall zone of NSW and use soil water and weather data to forecast pasture growth.


PhD (UNE), B. Nat. Res (Hons. UNE)

Current projects

Livestock Productivity Partnership: Increasing livestock production by integrating tropical pastures into farming systems.

Recent publications

  • Murphy SR, Boschma SP, Harden S (2019) Soil water dynamics, herbage production, and water use efficiency of three tropical grasses: implications for use in a variable summer-dominant rainfall environment, Australia. Grass and Forage Science, 74(1), 141-159.
  • Boschma SP, Murphy SR, Harden S (2019) Optimum plant density of Digiteria eriantha for dry matter production and hydrological performance in a summer dominant rainfall zone. Grass and Forage Science, In Press,   DOI: 10.1111/gfs.12409
  • Murphy SR, Boschma SP, Harden S (2017) Soil water dynamics and dry-matter production of old man saltbush-, native grass- and lucerne-based pastures in a variable summer-dominant rainfall environment, Australia. Grass and Forage Science, 72(2), 290-307.
  • Boschma SP, Murphy SR, Harden S (2017) Growth rate and nutritive value of sown tropical perennial grasses in a variable summer-dominant rainfall environment, Australia. Grass and Forage Science, 72(2), 234-247.

Contact details
Phone: (02) 6763 1244
Mobile: 0418 605 219