Govt announces $139m investment in new research programmes

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has announced that $139 million over six years will be invested in new science research programmes.

The 48 research programmes receiving funding in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2014 science investment round are in the biological industries, high-value manufacturing and services, energy and minerals, environmental, and health and society sectors.

“Science and innovation have crucial roles in achieving high-quality outcomes for New Zealand. The goal of the Government’s science investment is to produce excellent science with the highest capacity to benefit New Zealanders,” Mr Joyce says.

“The projects announced today will help to boost the productivity and competitiveness of our economy and generate knowledge that will help us make informed decisions as a society.”

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Environmental risk assessment regime to apply to Otago dairy farms

The Otago Regional Council will move to a new risk-based system of dairy farm inspections in 2014-15 as part of the implementation of new water quality rules for the Otago region.

The council’s director of environmental monitoring and operations, Jeff Donaldson, said the new regime will result in a shift from the annual dairy inspection for every farm to a risk management approach.

“Every farm will be assessed on their environmental risk and decisions made about how often they need to be inspected based on that risk,” Mr Donaldson said.

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Another step forward in research to reduce methane emissions from sheep

AgResearch scientists and US researchers have identified microbial differences in the rumens of sheep with high or low methane emissions.

Part of a Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research project, the work has been carried out by the Rumen Microbiology team at AgResearch Grasslands in Palmerston North and at the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in San Francisco.

Methane belched from sheep and other ruminants accounts for around 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities. It is produced in the rumen by microbes called methanogens and the work targeting these organisms is aimed at reducing methane emissions from ruminants.

The results have just been published in the top-ranking journal Genome Research, according to a media statement from AgResearch.

AgResearch scientist and project leader, Dr Graeme Attwood says they are one of the first major findings of the four-year project.

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High value fungi may offer new industry for NZ

Scientists could open up new opportunities for the New Zealand forestry industry following recent research into the cultivation and commercialization of two edible fungi crops: saffron milk cap (Lactarius deliciosus) and Bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii).

Plant & Food Research’s Alexis Guerin and Hon. Associate Professor Wang Yun have been investigating the high-value delicacies on a farm in Lincoln with successful and tasty results.

Their work was the subject of a media release this week from Plant & Food Research.

“These crops could be the next innovative gourmet export food product for New Zealand” say Dr Guerin.

“Elsewhere in the world they are highly regarded for their potential health benefits and even support a dedicated truffle-tourism industry”.

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Challenge boosts protection of biological heritage

The National Science Challenge, New Zealand’s Biological Heritage Nga Koiora Tuku Iho, is to receive funding of $25.8 million over five years for research to protect and manage the country’s biodiversity, improve biosecurity and enhance resilience to harmful organisms.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says the Challenge spans a wide range of scientific disciplines and will include researchers from nearly all New Zealand’s relevant research institutions.

The Challenge will be hosted by the Crown research institute Landcare Research. It includes researchers from the other six Crown research institutes and all eight New Zealand universities.

It also draws on research expertise of Te Papa Tongarewa, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for Primary Industries, regional councils and Ngāi Tahu.

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NZ in spotlight during World Science Week

The arrival of around 2000 top international scientists and researchers in Auckland will make New Zealand the focus of the world science community, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says.

The scientists are attending a series of meetings to be held under the umbrella of World Science Week New Zealand. The week brings together a range of major international science summits alongside a series of public science lectures.

Joyce said in a media statement:

“Many of the international meetings are being held in New Zealand for the first time, and all are critical to setting the future global science and research agenda,” Mr Joyce says. “The presence of so many eminent scientists and science leaders from around the world presents an unparalleled opportunity for New Zealand scientists to increase their international networks. It also confirms New Zealand as an active and engaged member of the international science community.”

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Plant & Food Research scientists honoured

Two Plant & Food Research scientists have been awarded one of the highest honours in horticultural science. Ross Ferguson and Ian Ferguson (no relation) were made Fellows of the International Society for Horticultural Science, the world’s leading independent organisation of horticultural scientists at the 29th International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane.

They join a select group of fellows: just 19 people have been so recognised. A fellow is chosen by the ISHS Council in recognition of outstanding contributions to horticultural science.

Dr Ross Ferguson has undertaken research in kiwifruit for nearly 40 years and is one of the leading authorities on kiwifruit biology.

Dr Ian Ferguson is a leading authority on postharvest science and skilled in the application of scientific knowledge to solve problems of the horticulture industry. He is a former Chief Scientist of Plant & Food Research and now works as Science Advisor to the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The 29th International Horticultural Congress was hosted by the Australian Society of Horticultural Science, the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science.

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