Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Ron Beatson wins the Morton Coutts Award

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Ron Beatson was awarded the prestigious Morton Coutts Trophy at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand 2021 New Zealand Beer Awards in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the New Zealand hops industry.

Dr Beatson has led the research and development of hop breeding and genetics for 38 years at Plant & Food Research. Based at the Motueka Research Centre, he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Plant & Food Research scientist.

Over the past three decades, New Zealand-grown hops have built a strong reputation for novelty and high quality with the brewing industry globally. Dr Beatson has been instrumental in the research, development and release of 16 specialty hop cultivars imparting unique flavours to beer, varieties including Motueka, Riwaka, Nelson Sauvin and the recently released Nectaron® – named in part for its creator – which have placed New Zealand hops on the world stage.

Dr Kieran Elborough, Group GM Technology Development of Plant & Food Research says, Dr Beatson is a leading expert in hops research. Continue reading

Agricultural runoff contributes to global warming – study helps us figure out how and what we can do about it

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas, with 300 times the warming ability of carbon dioxide.

Due to fertiliser runoff from farm fields, an increasing load of nitrogen is washing into rivers and streams, where nitrogen-breathing microbes break some of the fertiliser down into N2O, which the river releases into the atmosphere as it tumbles toward the ocean. But, until now, scientists haven’t had a clear picture of how the process works, what fraction of the runoff winds up as N2O or what steps might be taken to mitigate N2O emissions.

“Humans are fundamentally altering the nitrogen cycle,” says Matthew Winnick, sole author of the new paper, published recently in AGU Advances, and professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“We’ve changed how nitrogen moves through the environment.” Continue reading

Soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser is recognised as a Woman of Influence

Plant & Food Research soil scientist Dr Trish Fraser has received the 2020 Women of Influence Award (Rural Category) in recognition of her three decades of dedication and contributions to the rural sector and rural community.

The judges praised her collaborative approach and her rare skill of communicating science to farmers.

Dr Fraser says the award is a great honour and thanks Plant & Food Research, industry collaborators and many farmers for their support.

“I never think of myself as a trailblazer, but in retrospect what I’ve done out of passion and interest did make an impact on the communities that I serve,” she says.

“When I first started as a soil scientist almost 30 years ago, the rural community was extremely dominated by men. I knew I must prove myself through the quality of my work. I attended many field days to communicate my findings and educate farmers on how to improve soil health. Gradually they’ve come around, and they now value and respect me for the work I’ve done.” Continue reading

Public-private partnership with AgResearch to trial “regenerative” beef farming

In a partnership that links scientific research with burger fans, McDonald’s and science provider AgResearch have announced they joined forces on a “regenerative” farming trial.

The two organisations say they have a shared interest in positively influencing the sustainability of pasture-based beef production and are working together on a two-year project that aims to improve soil health and environmental performance.

The pilot study, soon to be under way in Hawkes Bay, focuses on alternative stock= grazing management to boost the cycling of nutrients through the soil. Compared with conventional grazing management practices, the cattle will be offered longer pasture and grazed at higher stocking intensity for a shorter time, leaving greater `residual’ pasture after grazing.

The high-intensity stocking is intended to trample more pasture, and together with the greater residuals remaining after grazing, allow an increased proportion of nutrients to be returned directly to the soil in a more evenly distributed way. Continue reading

EIT to host inaugural wine research symposium

It would be great to think that on October 27 – Wednesday next week – our readers will be at the NZIAHS forum on sustainable and profitable farming at Lincoln University.  That is, provided they are able to attend under whatever Covid Alert rules are applying at the time.

And next day, if that’s their taste in happenings of this sort, they could attend the inaugural wine research symposium aimed at presenting recent New Zealand research to industry and helping develop an agenda for future wine industry related research.

This will be hosted by the Eastern Institute of Technology School of Viticulture and Wine Science in Hawke’s Bay on October 28.

The EIT website says:

When: Thursday, 28th October 2021 from 8.45am – 4pm
Where: EIT Hawke’s Bay Campus Lecture Theatre 2 Continue reading

Kicking the can on methane

There is a real risk that focusing on methane will mean we take our foot off the accelerator of CO2 reductions – where we’ve traditionally had a pretty poor record, Professor Dave Frame and Dr Adrian Macey contend in article published by Newsroom and republished on the Victoria University of Wellington website.

Dave Frame is Professor of Climate Change and Director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at the university.

Dr Adrian Macey is an adjunct professor of the Institute and a fellow at the Institut d’études avancées de Nantes, France.

They write:

As 20,000 people get ready to converge on Glasgow for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), there has been a flurry of reports and media coverage suggesting urgent action to reduce methane emissions is the best thing we can do for the climate right now.

A recent joint United States-European Union pledge on methane, which other countries are being encouraged to join, aims at a 30 percent reduction in methane by 2030. The argument is that because methane is very potent in the short term, reducing it now will give us a big hit on warming, or that it somehow buys time for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2). Continue reading

Government acknowledges carbon farming is not the silver bullet to address climate change

The acknowledgement by the Government that current policies will likely see too much carbon forestry planted, along with the opening up of a conversation for potential limits through the Emissions Trading Sceme, is being welcomed by Beef+Lamb NZ on behalf of sheep and beef farmers.

As AgScience reported yesterday, the Government has released a discussion paper, Transitioning to a low emissions and climate resilient future, which aims to help shape New Zealand’s emissions reduction plan.

B+LNZ says the paper notably contains a slight shift in how the Government is talking about the role of carbon-only exotic forestry in addressing climate change.

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that fossil fuel emissions must be reduced, rather than continually offset, to ensure a fair, equitable, and efficient transition to a low emissions economy,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

“The discussion document indicates any decision on changing the ETS rules would come by the end of 2022. We’re concerned that’s not fast enough given the scale and pace of land conversion happening.

“What we need is urgent action to adjust the ETS to limit the amount of carbon forestry offsets available to fossil fuel emitters. New Zealand is the only country with a regulatory ETS that currently allows 100 percent carbon forestry offsetting. We will be putting forward potential policy solutions as part of this process.” Continue reading

Consultation document opens opportunity to shape NZ’s first Emissions Reduction Plan

The Government today invited New Zealanders to inform the country’s first Emissions Reduction Plan with the release of a consultation document containing a range of policy ideas to decrease the country’s emissions.

The Emissions Reduction Plan will set the direction for climate action through to 2035 prescribing action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across a range of areas, including energy, transport, waste, agriculture, construction and financial services.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

 “Over the last four years we have laid the foundations for a prosperous, low-emissions economy with the passing of the Zero Carbon Act and the work of the Climate Commission. Today’s discussion document gives New Zealanders the chance to say what policies they want in order to reach our climate targets.

“Tackling climate change is a job for everyone. Be it school children or business leaders, I hear from a range of New Zealanders about the opportunities a low carbon future offers our country, so I encourage everyone to have their say,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 The Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, said the discussion document released today is not a draft of the Emissions Reduction Plan. Rather it is an opportunity to hear feedback on what should be included in the plan. Continue reading

Sunflowers a rotational crop option for New Zealand growers

Growing sunflowers to produce high-oleic oil could provide additional income for New Zealand growers as a rotational crop during the summer period, new research has found.

The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) has concluded a three-year project looking at crop options to raise profitability and provide alternative land uses. The project received $90,000 through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Sustainable Farming Fund (now superseded by the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund). High-oleic varieties of sunflowers were identified as a promising crop.

“Our research shows we have the conditions in New Zealand for successful sunflower crops, with yield potential in excess of 4.5 tonnes per hectare,” says Ivan Lawrie, FAR’s general manager business operations.

“What’s more, consumer demand is strong for high-oleic sunflower oil, which is a top-quality oil with a higher smoke point than regular sunflower oil, and many sought-after health attributes, including low saturated fat content and high monounsaturated fat.” Continue reading

What if the food advice we know is wrong? Swedish research finds dairy fat can be good for us

An item on RNZ’s Sunday Morning drew attention to  new Swedish research among the world ‘s biggest consumers of dairy fat and the health effects.

The RNZ item addressed a raft of beliefs about food. It said:

Saturated fat is bad for your heart. We should eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Forget salt. Eat no more than two eggs a day…

These are just a few of the myriad food rules we are encouraged to abide by each and every day. But how many of these common health advice rules are backed by science? And which of them are bunkum?

A new study out of Sweden says decades of official dairy wisdom is incorrect, suggesting dairy fats can actually protect us against heart attack and stroke. Dr Ali Hill is a Registered Nutritionist and Professional Practice Fellow in the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago. She runs the rule over some of the most well-known food myths that are out there.

Listen duration16′ :37″

The Swedish research amongst the world’s biggest consumers of dairy foods shows that those with higher intakes of dairy fat — measured by levels of fatty acids in the blood — had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those with low intakes. Higher intakes of dairy fat were not associated with an increased risk of death. Continue reading