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Minko, George (1923–2007)

The Institute of Foresters of Australia has awarded the N. W. Jolly Medal, its highest award for merit in forestry, to George Minko. The citation leading to this award was as follows:

George Minko was born on 2 January 1923. He graduated from the University of Munich, Germany, with a Diploma in Forestry. After World War II he migrated to Australia and commenced working as a chainman with the Forests Commission, Victoria (FCV) in December 1949, moving around the State, until in March 1951 he began his long association with north-eastern Victoria when he settled at Myrtleford (Ovens). His interest and potential in research work was recognised in August 1952 when he was appointed as Plantation Research Officer (with a bicycle allowance of $24 p.a.!), the position he held with the FCV, and later the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (DCFL) for 35 years until his retirement in January 1988. He was naturalised on Australia Day 1956.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the area of radiata pine plantations in Victoria expanded rapidly, particularly in the Ovens Valley (Bright, Myrtleford, Stanley). The results of the research and developmental work of George Minko were sought after, and they have contributed significantly to the success of the current plantations, which now total 45 000 ha in north-eastern Victoria.

In 1967, George Minko’s position was transferred to the FCV’s Division of Education and Research. This Division provided administrative and technical support, and George soon began to produce papers detailing his research work, often in conjunction with other Research Officers such as F. G. Craig, F. G. Neumann and D. W. Flinn.

A major component of George’s research work was directed towards improved nursery techniques for raising large numbers of open-rooted radiata pine seedlings. He carried this out at Departmental nurseries located near Myrtleford, Stanley, and Shelley in the period 1960-67 and at Benalla in the period 1968-1987. The 1976 FCV Bulletin No. 23, "Radiata Pine Nursery Research in North-eastern Victoria’’ by George Minko and Fred Craig, records much of his nursery research work, which included studies of soil structure and moisture, nutrition, cone and seed collection, treatment and sowing procedures, weed control, seedling development, storage and quality parameters.

His early interest in, and keen observation of, agencies that posed potential threats to the rapidly increasing radiata pine estate led to the production in 1965 of his thesis for the Diploma of Forestry (Vic.) entitled "Injurious insects affecting Pinus radiata D. Don in Ovens Plantation". This thesis proved a valuable source of data for the extensive ecological studies in the early 1970s that culminated in the 1976 FCV Bulletin No. 24 "The Flora and Fauna of Radiata Pine Plantations in Northeastern Victoria". His highly developed powers of observation coupled with the ability to accurately record and analyse the significance of those observations, were exemplified in his Diploma Thesis.

Abiotic injurious agents were also investigated by George, resulting in improved plantation management to reduce the effects of lightning, hail, and snow. Papers on these topics were published in Australian Forestry.

His continuing concern for protection of plantations from injurious insects was evidenced by joint studies and papers with Fred Neumann on the Sirex Wasp and the European bark beetle. George played a significant part in the improvement of Sirex detection and control techniques when he observed increased Sirex attack in radiata pine trees injected with herbicides for non-commercial thinning.

This observation led to the bio-control system now used throughout south-eastern Australia involving ‘trap’ trees that are inoculated with Sirex-parasitic nematodes.

George was a leader, recognised Australia-wide, in research and development of herbicides for potential use in forestry applications. His early work with chemicals, primarily marketed for agricultural purposes, such as amitrole, atrazine, hexazinone, glyphosate, triclopyr, and fosamine ammonium, is evidence of this. He had the rare ability to foresee likely applications of these new products to solve existing weed control problems. Similarly, his work with growth retardants, anti-transpirants, and water-holding gels, indicated his continuing and persistent search, even late in his career, for improved and more reliable techniques to ensure better seedling survival and growth.

In August 1981, George Minko was awarded the Master of Forest Science by the University of Melbourne for his (external) thesis entitled "Some soil physical properties and their effect on toxicity of atrazine-amitrole herbicides to Pinus radiata D. Don in north-east Victoria". This work produced recommendations on herbicide application rates which would control weeds but be safe to radiata pine seedlings on certain soil types. Based on this post-graduate study, he presented a paper at the 7th Asian-Pacific Weed Science Society’s Conference in Sydney in 1979. George also presented papers on the use of herbicides in forestry at Australian Weed Conferences in Melbourne (1978), the Gold Coast (1981), and Sydney (1987).

George’s work has always been characterised by an ability to define the problems and then to discern and investigate likely solutions. In fact he often saw problems before they became generally recognised as such, and was well advanced on the necessary research and development by the time that operational staff began bringing the problems to his attention!

Since the FCV Research Branch began production of a series of internal Research Branch Reports in 1971 (continuing as the Research Report series of the Research and Development Section of the Lands and Forests Division of the DCFL), George Minko has contributed an impressive total of 37 Reports, mostly as senior author. These reports, and many others produced prior to 1971, have significantly contributed to the upgrading of nursery production techniques and softwood plantation silviculture throughout Victoria and also in other States. He has disseminated his results widely via published papers (nearly 100) in a wide range of technical and scientific journals such as Australian Forestry, Forestry Technical Papers (FCV), Plant Protection Quarterly, Research Activity (FCV), Australian Weeds, and Australian Forest Research.

Application of research results has always been an admirable priority for George. He regularly conducted field days for staff and was always available to give helpful advice to junior and senior foresters alike, as well as to the interested public. His enthusiastic and pleasant manner was (and is) an example to all.

George Minko was accepted as a Member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia in 1950. Apart from supporting the IFA journal Australian Forestry, he has been, and still is, actively involved in Institute affairs in north-eastern Victoria.

In conclusion, it is believed that George Minko would be a worthy recipient of the N. W. Jolly Medal because of his outstanding contribution to forestry in Australia as described above. His work, most of which is published and thus available for all present and future foresters, is a record of consistent and inspired dedication to the tasks of understanding and improving softwood nursery and plantation management in Australia.

Original Publication

  • Australian Forestry, vol 52, no 1, 1989, pp 2-3

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Minko, George (1923–2007)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/minko-george-18385/text30031, accessed 20 October 2018.

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