Funding decision a crucial step forward for Lincoln Hub

The Government has agreed in principle to provide funding towards the rebuilding of science facilities at Lincoln University.

The funding has been welcomed as a crucial step in the creation of the Lincoln Hub, said
Graham Stuart, the hub’s chair.

“We are well on the track of developing the Hub, which will be a world class agricultural research facility where university, crown research agencies and the private sector will be collaborating to achieve great outcomes for New Zealand,” he says.

The Lincoln Hub partners are AgResearch, DairyNZ, Landcare Research, Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research.

Stuart said the capital support of Lincoln University – coupled with that pledged by AgResearch under its Future Footprint plan – will enable the hub concept to continue to develop as a collection of world class state-of-the-art buildings as well as minds and intellectual property, to best serve the primary sector.

Major study documents nutritional and food safety benefits of organic farming

The largest study of its kind has found that organic foods and crops have a suite of advantages over their conventional counterparts.

The benefits include more antioxidants and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues, according to a media release from Washington State University.

The study looked at 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables and grains.

The study team applied sophisticated meta-analysis techniques to quantify differences between organic and non-organic foods.

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Clue to late puberty in sheep discovered by AgResearch team

AgResearch has announced that a needle-in-a-haystack search for the genetic cause of delayed puberty in a flock of Romney ewes has paid off for a team of its scientists.

Understanding what regulates the arrival of puberty is important for livestock breeding as well as human health.

Researchers in AgResearch’s Animal Reproduction team at Invermay had noticed that late puberty was a family trait in their research flock. This caused the late developers to miss out on lambing during what could be their first breeding season. They had previously demonstrated that late developers also produce fewer lambs during their lifespans.

A family tree search traced the trait back to a common grand-sire from the Davisdale line of Romneys. This line of sheep, which has become an important research tool, was established by retired AgResearch scientist Dr George Davis from the flock of his father, Stan Davis.

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Host proposals sought for Food Safety Science & Research Centre

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye have invited seven organisations to participate in a Request for Proposals to host the Food Safety Science and Research Centre.

The centre is being established to promote, co-ordinate, and deliver food safety science and research, in response to a key recommendation from the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination incident.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry for Primary Industries are working together to decide the best possible host for the centre.

Among the criteria will be good linkages to international regulators, research organisations and the food industry.

The seven organisations that are eligible to respond to the RfP are:

1. AgResearch

The Cawthron Institute

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research

Massey University

Plant and Food Research

The University of Auckland

The University of Otago

Responses to the RfP are due by 29 August.

The Centre is expected to be operational by late 2014.

The RfP can be found here.

Website provides access to bioresource processing technology

 The Bioresource Processing Alliance’s new website provides a gateway to some of New Zealand’s top scientists, engineers and economic specialists in biological resource processing.

The BPA, an alliance between four of the country’s national research providers – AgResearch, Callaghan Innovation, Plant & Food Research and Scion – aims to expand New Zealand’s export opportunities by adding value to biological resources. Many of these resources are low value secondary by-products and waste streams from primary industries.

BPA board chairman Garth Carnaby says  the website will enable businesses and investors to tap into some of the best technical facilities, research and processing knowledge available in the country.

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Scientist sounds warning about the destruction of soil

An international soil scientist is calling on the Government to focus attention on soil quality, which he described as the most important issue facing the world.

In a joint press statement Dr John Baker said soil quality is being ignored while the issues of global warming and water and air quality are frequently debated.

Ninety percent of our food comes from annually-sown crops growing in soil, he said, and in the next 20-30 years nations have to find a way of producing more food from the same amount of soil.

“Soil feeds us. It’s as simple as that,” Dr Baker says. “Yet we are pre-occupied with climate change while people are going hungry and we haven’t addressed the urgent need to feed another 50 percent of our population by 2050.

“The government and its ministries can provide leadership on this by recognising how we’ve been raping our soils for years and introduce measures to restore the essential nutrients.”

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CRV Ambreed and AgResearch develop eczema-tolerant dairy cattle genetics

Collaboration between CRV Ambreed, an artificial breeding company, and AgResearch under the auspices of the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) is helping to reduce the impact of facial eczema in dairy cattle by developing genetics that make cows more tolerant to the disease.

CRV Ambreed’s genetic development strategist, Phil Beatson, in a media statement yesterday said dairy farmers know that facial eczema can be incredibly stressful for cattle, and an economic risk to their businesses through lowered milk production, weight loss and death of stock.

“For every three in 100 cows with clinical FE, it is estimated up to 70 per cent of the herd may have sub-clinical symptoms. You won’t necessarily see the disease in cows with sub-clinical symptoms, but it will be damaging the liver and lowering milk production,” said Mr Beatson.

“Because many sub-clinical animals go undiagnosed and untreated, it is hard to quantify the economic impact of FE on the dairy industry – but conservative estimates in lost milk production are around $160M per year, depending on outbreaks and weather.”

He said the good news is that FE resistance in dairy cattle is a heritable trait.

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