Murray Turley, of Turley Farms, Temuka, has been named a joint winner of the 2018 Australasian Syngenta Growth Awards.

Together with Western Australian farmer Lynley Anderson, he was joint winner of the productivity grower award.

Syngeta said the annual awards recognised leaders in their field producing more with less while caring for the planet.

Judges from across agriculture, media, environmental and recruitment industries named eight winners as their pick of New Zealand and Australia agriculture last month, with the awards announced at a gala dinner in Sydney.

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Mr Turley heads Turley Farms, a 2930ha operation growing cereals, potatoes and hybrid vegetable seeds and is one of the founding shareholders of Southern Packers - an onion and potato packhouse - which has the capacity to process 40,000 tonnes of onions a year. He chairs the boards of Farmers Mill and an irrigation scheme.

Turley Farms has been one-hectare grid soil testing for a decade and applying variable rate fertiliser to ensure no nutrients were lost, improving profitability and enhancing the environment.

The awards included a ''Judges Choice'' in recognition of efforts to improve the mental health of isolated farmers.

''Growing seasons are less reliable than ever and the rural hubs they call home continue to shrink, contributing to feelings of isolation and even depression,'' Syngeta Australasia territory head Paul Luxton said.

''Yet our winners demonstrate a tremendous capacity to do more with less as real innovators while caring for the land and each other.

''This is our fifth year of running the awards and such is the quality of nominees that it is only getting harder to narrow down our winners.''

The Judges Choice Award went to Ginny Stevens, of Active Farmers Ltd, Mangoplah, New South Wales.

She left a career in banking to follow an idea of using physical fitness as a way to improve mental health in rural communities.

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As a result, Active Farmers was established, which is a network of farmer boot camps across 30 communities with 250 farming families involved in the programme and another 100 communities interested.

As part of his prize, Mr Turley will have the opportunity to take part in a week-long tour of the UK and Europe this year.

Mr Luxton said the tour enabled the winners to see another side of agriculture.

''It helps foster stronger relationships with the industry,'' he said.

In recent years the tour has included a day at Royal Farms, Berkshire, and Syngenta's R&D facilities at Jealott's Hill.

Besides Mr Turley, one other New Zealander won an award - the other going to six Australians.

He was Jim Walker, of the NZ Institute for Plant and Food Research, Hawke's Bay, who was given the award for sustainability researcher.

Mr Walker has led a team which introduced integrated fruit production and helped growers adopt practices that decreased pesticide residues. His advice is regularly sought by New Zealand government agencies.

-By Chris Tobin

Central Rural Life