Dr Stephen Goldson, who has successfully dealt to some of the country’s worst pasture-destroying insect pests and saved farmers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, has won top honours at the 2023 Science New Zealand Awards.
This year’s annual awards celebrated 24 awardees across three award categories – Early Career Researcher, Individual / Lifetime Achievement and Team.
Several other award-winners are working in the ag/hort sector or on projects which affect that sector:
Supreme Award Winner
Dr Stephen Goldson, of AgResearch, edged out 23 others – both teams and individuals – to be chosen as the Supreme Winner of the 2023 awards at Parliament this week.
Dr Goldson has devoted many years of work to combatting agricultural pests, with a particular focus on three species of weevil that arrived here from South America decades ago.
As well as neutralising the pests and producing big savings for the primary sector, his work has led to environmental benefits through reduced pesticide use, improved pasture health, and corresponding boosts in farm production and profitability.
The three pasture-destroying weevil species – Argentine stem weevil, clover root weevil, and lucerne weevil – had evaded attempts to exterminate them over many years. After exhaustive research and testing, Dr Goldson and his team introduced tiny wasps from offshore that lay eggs inside the weevils, making them sterile and killing them.
Dr Goldson is internationally recognised in his specialist areas of biological control of pests and biosecurity. He has held many leadership roles in science to provide advice to government and primary industries.
This has included being Director of the multi-partner science collaboration Better Border Biosecurity (B3), and acting as strategic adviser to the former Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, particularly focused on primary industries and the environment.
He is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science, the Royal Entomological Society of London and the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2011 he was vice-president of the Royal Society of New Zealand (Biological and Life Sciences) and Chairman of its Academy.
In 2013 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to science.
Early Career Researchers
Dr Aswathi Soni – AgResearch
Aswathi’s research has significantly advanced knowledge in food safety. She’s had substantial engagement across a broad range of stakeholders including MPI, Te Pū Oranga Whenua, industry associations, and collaborating CRIs and universities. She has developed hyperspectral imaging to enable early detection of microbial pathogens in food within minutes of scanning. This greatly enhances food safety by allowing prompt action to prevent the spread of contaminants, safeguarding both consumer health and brand reputation.
Dr Kirill Lagutin – Callaghan Innovation
Kirill is a Principal Scientist in the Lipids and Natural Products team at Callaghan Innovation. His expertise is in applying the very latest analytical technology particularly in food authenticity, proof of origin and fraud detection. His work has assisted partners in honey, wine, fruit, and dairy, as well as commercial analytical laboratories, research organisations, and universities.
Dr Dan Richards – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
Dan works to better understand how terrestrial landscapes can support climate adaptation in New Zealand as well as integrating objectives of climate mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and multiple benefits to people. This work is underpinned by a deep understanding of a variety of environments from native to urban ecosystems.
Dr Brendon Malcolm – Plant & Food Research
Brendon is a soil scientist at Plant & Food Research who works with farmers to develop tools that lead to better environmental outcomes and improved profitability. Over the past eight years he has led research which has proven sowing a catch crop after winter forage grazing can reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 60 percent. He has a strong focus on creating readily adoptable practices and communicates across multiple channels, including social media, to share his science with farmers, and the wider public.
Individual / Lifetime Achievement Awards
Dr Stephen Goldson – AgResearch
Stephen has devoted decades of work to combatting agricultural pests, with a particular focus on three species of pasture-destroying weevil that arrived here from South America decades ago. As well as neutralising the pests and producing big savings for the primary sector, his work has led to environmental benefits through reduced pesticide use, improved pasture health, and corresponding boosts in farm production and profitability. Dr Goldson is internationally recognised in his specialist areas of biological control of pests and biosecurity. He has held many leadership roles in science to provide advice to government and primary industries.
Dr Chris Phillips – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
Chris is a Senior Researcher in Erosion Processes at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research with professional expertise in erosion research and integrated catchment management. His scientific knowledge on soil bioengineering and its application to erosion and sediment control has informed central and regional government policy development, including sustainable land management policy.
Dr David Teulon – Plant & Food Research
David is an entomologist and Principal Scientist at Plant & Food Research. His leadership in biosecurity research has been over a period of ever-increasing biosecurity risks. He catalysed resources from science, government, industry and community interests, to provide tangible science outcomes for significant biosecurity threats to New Zealand such as Queensland fruit fly, myrtle rust, brown marmorated stink bug and fall armyworm.
Dr Tanira Kingi – Scion
With more than 30 years’ experience in agriculture, forestry and horticulture, Tanira Kingi (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangitihi, Te Arawa) has significantly contributed to New Zealand’s primary industry and the Māori community. He has mentored young Māori researchers and is considered a lead expert in Māori land tenure and organizational structures. He holds several government and ministerial advisory appointments including his appointment as a Climate Change Commissioner.
Animal Biosecurity Research Team – AgResearch
AgResearch’s Animal Biosecurity Research Team has undertaken high-quality research to develop vaccines and diagnostic tools for control and identification of disease outbreaks. It has also developed systems for monitoring, reporting, and managing disease incursions. Over the past 30 years the Team has made continual improvements to the diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis in cattle, estimated to cost New Zealand $100 million-a-year. They have also developed new diagnostic tests for early detection of cattle, deer, and sheep with Johne’s disease to enable the immediate removal of infected animals to reduce spread of infection in herds.
The Bioprocessing Fermentation Team – Callaghan Innovation
The Bioprocessing Fermentation Team at Callaghan Innovation is at the forefront of commercial projects involving microorganism development and metabolite production through fermentation processes. They provide extensive services to the food and beverage industries and also have applications for agritech, and human and animal health industries.
LUCAS Land Use Map (LUM) 2020 Team – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
The Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) Land Use Map (LUM) Team has made a substantial contribution to New Zealand’s environmental and scientific endeavours, particularly relating to climate change reporting and emissions monitoring. LUM provides a comprehensive and consistent time series of land use change data. LUM ensures New Zealand meets the requirements of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Good Practice Guidance (IPCCGPG).
The Cyclone Gabrielle Response Team – Plant & Food Research
In response to widespread devastation caused to Hawke’s Bay’s horticulture industry by Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023, staff from Plant & Food Research immediately began collaborating with the sector, offering their expertise to address the pressing challenges facing growers. The team provided orchardists with information and expertise to enable evidence-based decisions to be made quickly during extremely trying conditions. These efforts have helped to position the industry to ‘grow back better’ and face future challenges with added resilience.
Source: Science New Zealand