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.

Sustainable green alternatives to fertilisers are researched for boosting food and energy security

Lancaster University scientists are leading research into the formulation of sustainable fertilisers from renewable energy waste.

This new area of research aims to produce a sustainable, environmentally-friendlier source of soil conditioner and crop fertiliser that could also reduce costs to farmers and potentially, with wide-spread take-up, help to slow down rising food prices.

A news item from the university (here) says the collaborative project includes Stopford Energy and Environment Limited, the James Hutton Institute and Aqua Enviro Limited.

It builds on research originally conducted by Stopford looking at using a mixture of digestates, derived from anaerobic digestion, and ash, from burnt biomass, as an alternative to existing crop fertilisers.

The research also involves partnering with industry partners to ensure the resulting product meets the requirements of farmers and bio-energy producers.

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NZ gears up for Science Week

As many as 2,000 experts in a wide array of fields will begin arriving in Auckland from next weekend as for a series of high-level science conferences.

Many of the events fall under the banner of World Science Week New Zealand, with public lectures planned throughout the week.

Elsewhere, scientists will gather to discuss everything from the latest Antarctic research findings, to science policy advice to governments.

The International Council for Science will cap things off with its general assembly bringing together representatives from the world’s scientific bodies.

Survey of scientists shows dissatisfaction with National Science Challenges

Almost 300 scientists from government science institutions, universities and independent research organisations have condemned the way in which the Government’s National Science Challenges are being rolled out. They also are questioning the potential of the challenges to deliver benefit to New Zealand, according to a recent poll run by the New Zealand Association of Scientists.

The results, published on the NZAS website, contradict ministerial assurances that there are no problems with the challenges process.

NZAS President Nicola Gaston, in a media statement, said the sad thing about the survey responses was how disengaged scientists had become from the process.

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