Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Former IRRI weed ecologist passes away

Professor Andrew Martin Mortimer, 71, passed away peacefully after a short illness at his home in North Wales on Sunday, 22 December 2019, surrounded by his family. Martin was a weed ecologist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Agronomy, Plant Physiology, and Agroecology (APPA) Division from 1996 to 2003, also serving as APPA deputy head (1998-2000). He continued as an IRRI consultant afterwards.

Martin was an expert in plant ecology, agricultural botany, genetics, and environmental and evolutionary biology. He pointed out that, as a plant population biologist, he studied the development and application of agro-ecology in tropical and temperate agro-ecosystems.

In IRRI’s 1997-98 Annual Report, he explained that natural plants in a location—weeds to most people—present a particular challenge. "All non-rice plants in a field are not necessarily bad," he said. "If we can identify which weeds are good for natural enemies and bad for pests, we may recommend that farmers selectively weed their fields. But managing the vegetation around the field edges will probably have even greater benefit for beneficial insects."

In the photo, Martin is explaining an ongoing weed experiment to members of the IRRI Board of Trustees in 2003. Showing keen interest in the research at the far right is then BOT member Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. Later becoming the winner of the 2015 World Food Prize, Sir Abed passed away on 20 December only 2 days before Martin.

Martin studied at Bangor University—formerly University College of North Wales; BS 1969 (agricultural botany) and Ph D 1972 (plant ecology). He joined the faculty of the University of Liverpool in 1976, remaining there for 43 years, although only part-time more recently. He was seconded from Liverpool during his time at IRRI.

Martin published widely in his chosen field. Dynamics of Weed Populations (with Roger Cousens of the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and published by Cambridge University Press in 1995) was a significant contribution to the literature. He also co-authored with IRRI colleagues B.P. Caton, J.E. Hill, and D.E. Johnson, A Practical Guide to Weeds of Rice in Asia (2nd edition published in 2010). Their goal with the practical guide was to give farmers, extension agents, researchers, and others a practical in-field means of assessing weed control problems and, when possible, to provide strategies for improving integrated weed management in rice systems. It was designed to help farmers better understand the relationships among land preparation, rice establishment methods, and early-season water management practices that often strongly influence the particular weed species that infest their rice fields.

Martin is survived by his wife Sue; his children Hugh, Fergus, and Andrea; and grandchildren Jessica, Philippa, and Leo.

Cremation will take place at Pentre Bychan Crematorium, Wrexham LL14 4EP, on Thursday, 9 January 2020 at midday. Instead of flowers, donations may be made to lyme disease, the walton centre, or rebellion earth. A celebration of life will take place at St. Nicholas Church, Burton, Wirral CH64 5TJ, on Saturday, 29 February 2020 at midday.

Friends’ contributions to memories of Martin are welcome and can be sent

For more about Martin, see

Learn more about IRRI ( or follow us on social media and networks (all links down the right column).

No comments:

Post a Comment