Joint dairy research facility in Manawatū boosts on-farm research

Work is close to completion on Massey University’s Dairy 4 Farm, after the university partnered with AgResearch to boost on-farm research capability and facilities in the lower North Island.

The facility will enable greater interaction between staff and students of Massey and AgResearch and provide scope for a range of independent trials to operate at any one time.

The Dairy 4 Farm, adjacent to Massey’s Manawatū campus, has approximately 600 spring calving cows and is the largest of the university’s two farms.

Professor Paul Kenyon, Head of Massey’s School of Agriculture and Environment, says the new facilities will enable detailed research projects on the farm to be carried out at the same time as usual operations. Continue reading

Research to breed low-methane livestock and Plant & Food scientists are recognised    

The work of AgResearch scientists to successfully breed low methane emitting sheep, as a tool to combat climate change, has been recognised with the Supreme Award at this year’s Science New Zealand Awards.

Science New Zealand represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes. The annual awards recognise research excellence at each CRI.

Outstanding research by three Plant & Food Research scientists and teams – an accomplished fruit crop scientist, a consortium working on myrtle rust disease and an emerging researcher looking at foods that support human health – were recognised, too.

Dr Jill Stanley received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to plant physiology and crop science over four decades. During her career, Dr Stanley has worked on a range of crops in varied locations, including the UK and Spain, collaborated with numerous researchers and growers and now leads a team of 40 people.

Her summerfruit research has focussed on improving practical outcomes for growers by enhancing productivity and fruit quality. Dr Stanley’s work has helped growers use resources more efficiently to lift returns and has delivered quality fruit for consumers. Continue reading

Regenerative agriculture research receives Government funding boost

The Government is investing in two new research projects to investigate the impacts of “regenerative farming” practices.

As NZIAHS members are aware, this is a contentious issue in science circles.  Questions have been raised about the definition of “regenerative” farming and growing and cautions sounded about the need for zealous champions of regenerative practices to base their enthusiasm on reliable New Zealand research data, not on something reported from countries with different conditions and farming methods.

Mr O’Connor announced the government is contributing $2.8 million to a $3.85 million five-year project with co-investment by Synlait Milk and Danone that aims to understand how to measure and manage soil health to boost environmental and economic performance on New Zealand farms.

The announcement on Sunday coincided with World Soil Day, which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinization, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

“We simply cannot take soil health for granted,” O”Connor said.

“It’s the basis of our food systems, and also New Zealand’s economic health.” Continue reading

New research highlights differences in New Zealand beef

Pasture-raised beef is a cornerstone of the New Zealand meat industry. But do we really understand the benefits we get from the meat when it is raised this way?


New research from the Riddet Institute indicates there are differences in meat quality relating to health and digestion, depending on how the animal is raised.

A research team led by Dr Lovedeep Kaur and Dr Mike Boland s from Massey University’s Manawatū campus compared the digestion differences between pasture-raised New Zealand beef to grain finished beef, and a plant-based alternative.

To mimic the human digestive tract, researchers used simulators in the laboratory to observe the differences.

They found differences in the fat content of the beef, potentially leading to better health outcomes. Continue reading

Scientists aiming to enhance the `human-ness’ of infant formula

AgResearch scientists say they believe they have identified a new way to make infant formula more like breast milk and better for babies, using ingredients that could enhance brain development and overall health.

They say research into this next-generation infant formula could create new opportunities for New Zealand’s primary industries in a global market worth tens of billions of dollars annually.

With funding over three years recently announced from the government’s 2021 Endeavour Fund, AgResearch scientists Simon Loveday and Caroline Thum, along with collaborators from Massey and Monash Universities, aim to enhance the “human-ness” of infant formula produced from New Zealand ingredients.

“We’ve recently discovered a new natural source of nutritional oil that is surprisingly similar to the fat in breast milk,” Dr Thum says.

“We will be combining this new nutritional oil with dairy phospholipids (a special kind of fat) in response to recent evidence that this component of milk enhances babies’ brain development. Fortunately, phospholipids are abundant in buttermilk, which is a by-product of butter production.”

“We’ll then test our next-generation formula ingredient in the laboratory using equipment that simulates the conditions inside a baby’s digestive system. This will tell us how well the new combination is digested, compared to conventional infant formula. We aim to show improved fat and calcium absorption, in addition to the positive effect of the phospholipids for brain development.” 

With the global markets for infant formula and baby foods expected to continue their strong growth, new products that provide a health advantage are in high demand.

Dr Loveday says the new funding will allow the researchers to explore a new high-value opportunity for New Zealand’s primary sector and contribute to New Zealand’s global reputation as a source of naturally healthy foods.

Source:  AgResearch

Lincoln University Dairy Farm launches new dairy sector research

Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) is launching three new farm systems initiatives at its demonstration farm, all geared at sustainable dairy farming practices.

The three new systems will expand LUDF’s focus and extend its outlook through to 2030. The research is on variable milking frequency; moving the forage base to include plantain; and replacement rate reduction.

The South Island Dairying Demonstration Centre (SIDDC) has revised the LUDF systems to more effectively contribute to New Zealand dairying and the wider primary sector.

Speaking on behalf of the partnership, Lincoln University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Edwards explains that SIDDC is committed to taking a leadership role in dairy farming in New Zealand through LUDF.

“It’s important that the partnership regularly reassesses and revisits the farm’s systems to consolidate its position at the vanguard of current and future scenarios.” Continue reading

Research finds herbicide resistance is greater than expected

Herbicide resistance is emerging as a serious and growing threat to New Zealand’s food production, with recent surveys by scientists finding half or more of arable farms and vineyards in some regions have weeds resistant to commonly used herbicides.

AgResearch scientists, who are carrying out the first systematic approach to surveying for herbicide-resistant weeds in arable crops with funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, say their results are often many times the levels of resistance that had been expected.

Furthermore, new resistant weed species are being brought forward, or discovered by the AgResearch scientists working alongside the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) and the Bragato Research Institute, as part of the Managing Herbicide Resistance programme which began in 2018. Continue reading

Science helps to cook the perfect steak’; artificial intelligence is used to create new recipes

AgResearch scientists have identified the ideal cooking conditions for the “perfect steak” while harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create new food combinations and recipes.

Working with world-class development chef Dale Bowie, whose career has included working at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin three-star restaurant The Fat Duck in the UK, the scientists analysed biochemical changes in beef steak during cooking.

While being cooked, the steak releases compounds emitted as gases called volatiles, which can be captured and analysed. These volatiles, among other factors such as texture and colour, help determine the eating quality of the steak.

Scientists Santanu Deb-Choudhury and Arvind Subbaraj studied the volatiles produced at a range of different core temperatures from cooking steak using technology called Direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (DART-MS). Continue reading

Animals used in research relating to health and welfare have been successfully rehomed

Five piglets that were part of AgResearch’s work to test a form of upgraded facilities, over a period of three-and-a-half weeks indoors at the institute’s Grasslands campus in Palmerston North were  identified as being suitable for rehoming on local farmlets.

“All of the research we do with animals is of the highest ethical standards and aimed at making progress for people and animals themselves. But depending on the nature of the research, rehoming of the animals is not always practical,” says AgResearch veterinarian and animal welfare officer Susan Doohan.

“In this case, it was a very positive thing to see happen for the piglets and for all of the researchers and staff involved. Seeing the piglets play, explore and interact in their new homes has given us all a lot of enjoyment. It is certainly something we want to do more of where the opportunities for rehoming research animals are identified.”

All five piglets were confirmed as suitable for rehoming based on several factors including temperament, health, transition to meal feeding, and sociability with other piglets. They were transferred to their new homes in March 2021 after potential new owners were identified in the local area by AgResearch staff.

Checking was done in advance around the experience of the potential new owners and housing arrangements for the piglets, as well as information sharing about animal use in science.

“We also made sure to provide the new owners with a supply of feed for the initial rehoming period, that was consistent with what the piglets were receiving during the research, to ease their transition,” Susan says.

One of the new piglet owners says:

“The three boys we rehomed settled in very well and now have adopted brothers from another piggery.

“They have all been weaned off their initial milk feeds and are growing like the proverbial mushrooms. They are very quiet, friendly fellows and easy to look after. We would have no hesitation in rehoming animals from AgResearch in future.”

  • More information about AgResearch’s research with animals and ethics processes can be found here.

Source: AgResearch

NZ’s warmest June on record – why climate change research is regarded as critical

The June Climate Summary was published today, showing last month was the warmest June on record for the country.

The average temperature was 2.0°C above average, the 13th time this has happened since 1909.

Several records were broken with 24 locations having their warmest June on record.

The highest temperature was 22°C at Hastings on June 26 and Leigh on June 19.

Taranaki is still leading the sunniest location table.

The data were being posted at much the same time as AgResearch Research Director Trevor Stuthridge was describing the recently released advice of the Climate Change Commission as an endorsement of the research being done to support agriculture’s shift to lower emissions.

The Climate Change Commission was established to provide advice to the Government about the paths to meeting New Zealand’s climate change targets. Continue reading