Lewis Lydon – considered one of the Australian onion industry’s biggest supporters – has been awarded the 2018 Reg Miller Award at the Onions Australia annual conference in Ulverstone.
January 2019 marks Lydon’s 30th anniversary in the vegetable seed industry as a plant breeder focused primarily on allium crops.
Born and raised in Brisbane, he studied a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Queensland and upon graduating, he headed for the chilly climes of Narromine, New South Wales.
There he joined Arthur Yates and Co – before it became known as Yates Vegetable Seeds – as an assistant onion plant breeder, and it wasn’t long before he took on the role of plant breeder responsible for the onion plant breeding programme. In this role, he was responsible for the breeding and product development of a range of Yates hybrid onions in domestic and export markets in South Africa, South America and America.
During this time the first of Yates hybrids, including Gladiator and Destiny was released, and Lydon was also involved with tomato and cabbage seed breeding, releasing a very successful hybrid that was marketed in the Middle East.
In October 2003, the commercial vegetable seeds division of Yates was sold to Enza Zaden, and lucky for Enza Zaden, that came with a highly respected onion breeding manager named Lewis Lydon.
Lydon has worked for them ever since, and today is responsible for the company’s International Onion Breeding Program for Australia, New Zealand, America and Europe – essentially breeding for all major international onion seed markets.
In more recent times, Lydon was elected to the Onions Australia Executive in 2015 and remains part of the group today.
Those who have worked alongside Lydon describe him as a professional that growers are instantly enthralled with and enamored by, always keen to share his passion and knowledge of the onion sector.
Long-time colleague and mentor Richard Jones – also a previous Reg Miller Award recipient – says he has fond memories of his time working with Lewis and watching him develop into a star of the commercial breeding sector.
“Working with Lewis was an adventure because he had such marvelous, big ideas of what could be achieved,” Jones says.
“He had endless suggestions on how best to achieve these goals, and he’s always animated when shown an onion or a new trial or meets new growers – he truly loves what he does.
“His recall of information always astounded me too, especially his knowledge of geography in the Narromine and Dubbo areas. It makes him a fierce debater – he’s always ready to argue the benefits or otherwise of his favorite crop with anyone, anywhere.
“Those that socialize with Lewis know he’s a lot of fun off the onion paddock too. There’s an urban myth that one of the many talents he possesses is the ability to stand on his head and drink any beverage supplied to him!
“Beyond the professional and social accolades however, he is above all a very kind and caring person who is generous with his time and knowledge. He truly loves life and is a devoted father to his daughters.”