Dr Jim Crush, a senior scientist in AgResearch, has been awarded a Fellowship of the New Zealand Institute for Agricultural and Horticultural Science.

During his 46 years with AgResearch and its predecessor organisations, Jim has been a staunch champion of research into the ecophysiology of pasture plant species, including the significance of root morphology and physiology to inform the development of forage cultivars for sustainable pastures. His key achievement has been the sustained delivery of quality science discovery to this subject area.

Jim has deservedly become the ‘elder statesman’ of the science underpinning pasture ecology and production and his opinion is highly valued, both internally to AgResearch and externally across the wider pastoral sector. He has been a prolific author of publications on forage species with over 150 peer reviewed journal papers, book chapters and conference proceedings and he has established himself as a key leader of sound thinking across the pastoral sector. He is well recognised as a trusted colleague within AgResearch and collaborator with other science organisations and stakeholders.

Jim continues to make substantial contributions to the pastoral sector through the optimisation of performance of forage species in mixed pastures and his research leadership – especially to meet the increasing need for high-level production from sustainable pastures within environmental limits – has significant implications for adaptation to climate change. In recent years Jim has made a key contribution to the implementation of the Forage Value Index initiative of DairyNZ and NZ Plant Breeders Research Association.

Jim’s recent research achievements are reflected in the development and application of methods for screening plants, especially ryegrasses and clovers, for root form and function. This is providing the forage cultivar development pipeline with novel germplasm with the potential for improved agronomic performance and, more importantly, increased nutrient use efficiency. This will result in pastures that leak less nitrate and require less phosphate fertiliser, thereby reducing their environmental footprint and increasing their economic performance.

Jim has been a valued mentor for many students, emerging researchers and even scientists more advanced in their careers. He is highly respected as a people leader and a ‘true gentleman’ for his calm, constructive and engaging manner that results in his sagacious advice being positively given and getting the best out of people.