Dr Rob Bramley

Dr Rob Bramley.

Dr Rob Bramley: understanding variability in agricultural production

Dr Rob Bramley is a Principal Research Scientist and is the CSIRO Site Leader at Waite Campus (Adelaide). He has worked as a soil chemist, on land-use sustainability issues, and since 1996, has had a primary research focus on Precision Agriculture (PA) and the management of variability in agricultural production systems for economic and environmental benefits. He currently leads a significant multi-agency PA project in the Australian sugar industry and has been a pioneer in the development of Precision Viticulture for winegrape production systems.

  • 21 June 2006 | Updated 18 March 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Rob Bramley is a Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences’ Agricultural Systems program and is the Site Leader for CSIRO Waite Campus in Adelaide, South Australia. He is a member of the Divisional Leadership Team for CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences (CES) and Chair of the CES Site Leaders’ Forum.

He leads research on vineyard variability and precision viticulture and on the application of precision agriculture in sugarcane production in the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship. He is also involved in work which aims to assist the wine industry with understanding and managing soil quality.

Dr Bramley's research interests are in understanding how knowledge of variability in the biophysical environment in which crops are grown can be used to tailor crop production and subsequent processing to meet yield, quality and environmental targets.

He has been involved in precision agriculture research since 1996, and has been instrumental in the development of precision viticulture techniques and zonal vineyard management.

Dr Bramley believes that precision agriculture should be regarded as a generic approach to crop production in which spatial information about the production system is used to make better management decisions than would be possible without that information.

For example, a precision viticulture approach to winegrape production recognises that because a vineyard is variable in terms of soil properties and topography, managing it as though it is uniform, as in the conventional approach, is unlikely to deliver the best outcomes.

Instead, high resolution spatial information about the land and vine performance is used to identify areas for differential management. Such information is derived from high resolution proximal soil sensing, remote and proximal plant canopy sensing and yield monitoring.

This approach is likely to deliver benefits to growers in terms of more efficient use of production inputs and natural resources and reduced risk of on-farm and off-farm degradation.

Of particular importance is the fact that it also provides opportunities for processors such as winemakers, through product differentiation and improved responsiveness to market demand through the use of selective harvesting. Dr Bramley has demonstrated the profitability of such strategies in the wine industry where they are increasingly common, but also believes that they offer similar opportunity in other crop and horticultural sectors.

In the late 1990's, Dr Bramley was involved in early work which sought to apply precision agriculture in sugarcane production systems.

Dr Bramley has been involved in the development of Precision Viticulture techniques and zonal vineyard management since 1999.

Industry circumstances at the time meant that this work did not proceed, but Dr Bramley is now once again leading research which seeks to equip the sugar industry with the expertise to extract both value and environmental benefit from the use of precision agriculture approaches.


Dr Bramley has a background in agricultural and environmental science and studied soil science with an emphasis on soil fertility in England and New Zealand.

Since joining CSIRO in 1990, he has worked on the:

  • chemistry and fertility of soil phosphorus in the grain-growing systems of Western Australia and the sugarcane production systems of North Queensland, Australia
  • impact of rural land use on water quality in the Herbert River region of North Queensland
  • development of precision agriculture for winegrape, sugarcane and grain production systems.

Academic qualifications

Dr Bramley has been awarded the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Science with Honours in Soil and Land Resource Science from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom, 1985
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Soil Science from Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 1989.

Dr Bramley is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (2007) and of the Australian Wine Industry Future Leaders Program (2009).


Dr Bramley has made numerous invited keynote presentations on Precision Agriculture and Precision Viticulture in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, France, Germany, the United States of America and Brazil.

He is an Associate Editor of the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research (ISI impact factor 2.958) and is a member of the international scientific committee of the Journal International des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin. He was one of the founding committee members of SPAA - Precision Agriculture Australia and was on the editorial advisory committee of the Australian Journal of Soil Research until its restructure in 2010.

He was the ‘Liquorland Top 100’ Research Fellow at the Marlborough Wine Research Centre, Blenheim, New Zealand in 2009-10 and in 2012 received an ‘Excellence Award’ from the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology when he was the inaugural winner of the Winemaking Paper of the Year award.

This award was made for the winemaking paper published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research in the preceding year that was adjudged to have the greatest potential industry impact.

Dr Bramley is a member of the Australian Society of Soil Science and of the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology.

Find out more about CSIRO's research into Food and Agriculture.