From the President’s Desk
As we wrap up our second year affected by a global pandemic it is vitally important for our physical, social and mental wellbeing to finish the year well: and disconnect. Our Auckland colleagues in particular have carried a huge load and we are grateful for the sacrifices they have made. There has been an impact on seasonal science and in some cases on long-term datasets with disrupted sampling. Many of us have had to work from home with partner’s and children’s needs competing for priority. Our student and early career researchers may well have felt even more anxious than senior scientists, who could at least fall back on writing papers… but it has been challenging for us all. We should be hugely proud of our high vaccination rate: but the impact on social cohesion is not over yet.
We had an excellent Forum in Canterbury in October, attended both physically and electronically by some influential representatives of our agricultural and horticultural sectors. What was noticeable is the impact that Te Taiao is already having on the dialogue. This ‘environmental wellbeing’ principle underlies the MPI strategy document, ‘Fit for a Better World‘, with a vision for all of our scientific research and practice falling increasingly under the banner of evidence-led sustainability. It is couched in terms that resonate strongly with our bicultural nation and are uniquely ‘us’ on the global stage. I strongly recommend you taking time to read the document and use its concepts in directing your research.
With our organisations likely to be keen to continue making savings on domestic and international travel, it is timely to remember that gender equity and diversity are not the present reality of most of our institutions. We need to take care that limited resources are allocated preferentially towards building up the career prospects of those who have missed out historically.
After the summer, may I ask you all to put pen to paper and respond to the green paper, Te Ara Paerangi. This MBIE consultation is open until 2nd March 2022 and looks set to influence our research landscape for decades to come. It is important that we have our say. I plan to use my submission to recall the expectation that the founding of the CRIs in 1992 was intended to make it easier for the Government to see the impact of its science funding; and therefore to justify increasing Government research funding to at least 0.8% of GDP. That has not happened. By the early 2000s then Minister Pete Hodgson was talking about a ‘missing billion dollars‘ in New Zealand science investment but he was making a different point, the lack of private sector investment in innovation. Both are still true. Chronic shortages of science funding in New Zealand, and a global economy needing an imaginative re-set towards a more sustainable future, make it highly likely that our best and brightest will head offshore once our borders become more permeable again. What policies can we implement to retain talent and allow us to remain proud of our sustainable, high-value, knowledge-embedded agricultural and horticultural exports?
May the warmth of summer and time with family and friends bring refreshment and renewed energy for 2022.
Congratulations to our members:
DR DAVID TEULON FNZIAHS has been made a Companion of the Royal Society.
Through outstanding leadership, David has championed plant biosecurity research in New Zealand during a period of ever-increasing biosecurity threats. Invasive pests and diseases are a major threat to New Zealand agricultural and horticultural sectors, on which much of our economy is based. David has had an exemplary national and international impact on biosecurity research during his tenure as Director of Better Border Biosecurity (B3).
READ MORE about David’s award
PROF KEITH CAMERON FNZIAHS & PROF HONG DI FNZIAHS from Lincoln University have received the 2021 RSNZ Pickering Medal for inventing new technology to treat dairy farm effluent to recycle water and reduce phosphate and E coli leaching into water. ClearTech® is a fully-automatic treatment system that uses a coagulant to produce ‘clarified water’ and ‘treated effluent’. It reduces the volume of effluent that needs to be irrigated or stored; clarifies and recycles more than 50% of the water that can be used to wash the farmyard; and reduces the risk of contamination of rivers, lakes and groundwater, reducing phosphate and E coli leaching by over 90%.
PROF RICH McDOWELL from AgResearch and Our Land and Water, National Science Challenge has received the 2021 RSNZ Hutton Medal for outstanding contributions to the knowledge of nutrient flows in soils and water, and informing farm management and environmental policy. A soil scientist, Rich is best known firstly for showing how contaminants move across land and into water, and secondly how to manage land to mitigate losses. He has used this knowledge to inform policy and has made an immense contribution to the strategies available in New Zealand and overseas for mitigation of nutrient losses to water.
READ MORE about the 2021 Research Honours Awards
2021 PGG Wrightson Seeds Significant Achievement Award
was awarded to the Lincoln University Dryland Pastures Research Group (DPRG)
Professor Derrick Moot and the Lincoln University Dryland Pastures Research Group have provided the scientific basis and agronomic guidance to transform sheep and beef farms on hill country throughout Canterbury and New Zealand. Their science has refined and promoted lucerne and sub-clover grazing management to add resilience to properties through-out the province. Their published science (100+ peer reviewed articles) and applied results have used local case studies (Bog Roy and Inverary Stations) to show science driving on-farm animal productivity, financial viability and social acceptance through a reduced environmental footprint. Their work has transformed thousands of hectares of Canterbury hill country to legume dominance to address the main production impediment of low N in farm systems. This has been successfully promoted on farm at 100+ field days in the last 10 years across New Zealand including at Mt Benger, Leader Valley, Sefton, Culverden, Hanmer (Nth Canterbury), Willsden farm, Little River, Pigeon Bay, (Banks Peninsula) Lees Valley, Darfield, Ashburton Gorge (mid Canterbury) Timaru, Fairlie, Glenmore, Sawdon, Omarama, Haldon and Simon’s Hill Stations and featured at the last two NZGA conferences held in Canterbury (2010- Lincoln University MaxClover) 2018 (Tekapo).
The DPRG have identified the appropriate legume for the appropriate environment and created hard copy (20+ B+LNZ Fact sheets), online (DPRG website) and a text alert service (1,300 subscribers) as resources for farmers wanting to change farm systems. The DPRG research has adapted sheep and beef farm systems in Canterbury to cope with the loss of sheep finishing land to dairy expansion, and the drier climate from climate change. The DPRG have demonstrated practices and strategies required to enable hill and high country farming remain profitable within Canterbury while reducing its environment footprint. The results have contributed to the 30% decline in GHG emissions per unit of product achieved by the sheep and beef sector since 1990. Importantly the DPRG have trained and educated hundreds of undergraduate and post-graduate students who are leading change on-farm throughout Canterbury and New Zealand.
Their research and commitment is a credit to Lincoln University.