Roll on Summer

This will be our final newsletter for 2022. Every year I resolve to ‘pace myself’, but end up exhausted and longing for the summer vacation as the year runs out long before the ‘To Do’ list becomes empty. For those whose research keeps you in close contact with our agricultural and horticultural community, the unseasonal stormy weather that affected parts of New Zealand in October-November has been stressful and is perhaps in line with generic predictions of an increasing frequency of such events owing to Climate Change.

Field days imageThis week is Mystery Creek Fieldays and we look forward to the launch of the Government’s Food and Beverage Industry Transformation Plan. It is always good to remember that MPI and MBIE both recognise the importance of our primary exports pitching for premium global prices, to overcome the tyranny of distance that separates us from our markets. The challenge is that both have a tendency to believe that we can ‘pick winners’ and actively disinvest in research in our areas of traditional strength in order to chase new targets. This is perhaps understandable when the national purse can only be stretched so far: we are all aware that the relatively robust economic position New Zealand finds itself in as the global pandemic winds down is unlikely to continue.

But it is vital that our science investment agencies remember the enormous contribution made by past agricultural and horticultural research to our societal wellbeing. We are all in favour of additional research investment chasing the Next Big Thing in agritech or social science; but there needs to be continued investment in refining our knowledge of our current major export industries and their felt needs. Additional investment is needed to help our small and large industry players fully take advantage of the knowledge they have helped to generate in the last decade. Far too much research finds its way to publication but stops short of commercial uptake for lack of effective, risk-tolerant support for the many new questions that arise when knowledge turns into improved practice. We are seeing our Universities and CRIs actively reducing staffing and student numbers slipping as a result of under-investment by Government in our core sector.

So, at a time when health and education are desperate for new investment, it seems highly unlikely: but there are few bets as certain as the bet that increased investment today in agricultural and horticultural research for industry will generate an enduring return many times larger, as it has done since records in New Zealand began a hundred years ago. Will this eventuate in Budget 2023?

Although our primary sector industries still face major challenges, it was great to hear the latest data on the contribution they make to the economy: We need to take some credit for the impact of our science that underpins production, processing, exporting and marketing of those products.

2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero Award

Congratulations to Prof Travis Glare who is one of the 100 medalists in the 2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero award.

Science, research and a deep personal commitment have driven Professor Travis Glare to reduce pests in New Zealand’s ecology. Formerly the director of the Bio-Protection Research Centre (now Bioprotection Aotearoa), Travis’ work and life has been dedicated to ensuring Aotearoa’s native flora and fauna is kept safe and thriving. In the ‘80s he helped develop the first fully biological insecticide to reduce ‘grass grub’, which can wreak havoc on dairy and meat pastures; this work kick-started a branch of biological science geared towards healing the environment from human damage. His work guiding, managing and funding studies into Myrtle Rust and other invasive insect pests has been vital to their reduction and has supported New Zealand’s ecosystem. Now the Director of the Research Office of Lincoln University, Travis is ensuring the next generation of researchers and scientists will be there to help navigate and protect our agriculture in the face of climate change.

2022 Young Horticulturist Competition

Winner:          Regan Judd
Second:         Sam Bain
Third:              Courtney Chamberlain

NZIAHS congratulate Regan, Sam and Courtney and offer them complimentary membership for 2023.

Upcoming NZIAHS Section Events

Canterbury Section
NZIAHS Awards Function and Canterbury Section AGM & Xmas party
Wednesday 7th December 4.00pm to 6.00pm
Venue: Conference Room 1 & 2, Mrs O’s, Lincoln University
Members and colleagues welcome.

Otago Section
NZIAHS are delighted to announce the re-establishment of the Otago Section.
Thursday 8th December 5.00pm
“New Zealand re-starting a conversation about GMOs”
Venue: Biochemistry Building Seminar room G.13, University of Otago
Members and colleagues welcome

RSVP please to Jenny Taylor

Save the Date

2023 Plant Science Central Conference
“Plants for Life”
4-6 July 2023

Ag/Hort Lecture Block
Massey University
Palmerston North