Commission for Agricultural Meteorology gives award for exceptional service to Dr Salinger



The Award for Exceptional Service has been given to Dr Jim Salinger for outstanding contributions and exceptional service to the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Very few people receive this award so I am very honoured,” Jim told AgScience.

The commission’s role is to provide guidance in the field of agricultural meteorology by studying and reviewing available science and technology; to propose international standards for methods and procedures; to provide a forum for the examination and resolution of relevant scientific and technical issues; to promote training and the transfer of knowledge and methodologies, including the results of research, between WMO members; and to promote international cooperation.

Jim has been a member of the commission and New Zealand’s principal delegate from 1986 – 2010, and has been a member since, totalling 32 years.

During that period he chaired several CAgM working groups and expert teams, was its vice president for eight years, and was its ninth president from 2006 – 2010.  Subsequently he has chaired a task team.

“So as well as guiding the policy and work plan of CAgM for member states, I have produced many publications,” Jim said.

The most significant ones are listed below.

His next task is to provide an update of Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry.


Technical Note No. 196, 1994: Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry. Report of the CAgM-IX Working Group on the Study of Climate Effects on Agriculture including Forests and of the Effects of Agriculture and Forest on Climate, WMO-No. 802, 152 pp.

Technical Note No. 199, 1997: Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry: An Update, Salinger, M.J., Desjardins, R., Jones, M.B., Sivakumar, M.V.K., Strommen, N.D., Veerasamy, S. and Lianhai, W., WMO-No. 841, 51 pp.

Technical Note No. 200, 2000: Climate Variability, Agriculture and Forestry: Towards Sustainability, Salinger, M.J., Desjardins, R.L., Janzen, H., Karing, P,H., Veerasamy, S. and Zipoli, G., WMO-No. 928, 41 pp.

Salinger, M.J., Sivakumar, M.V.K. and Motha, R. (eds). Increasing Climate Variability and Change: Reducing the vulnerability of agriculture and forestry. Springer, Dordrecht, 362 pp. 2005.

Salinger, M.J. (ed). Climate and Oceanic Fisheries. July 2013. Special issue of Climatic Change.

Scientists lament NZ’s slide in the Global Innovation Index rankings

The appreciation of sound science advice and economic importance of investment in research and development in New Zealand –  or lack of it – was  examined in an article published in the New Zealand Herald at the weekend

Authored by Dr Jim Salinger and the late Dr James (Jim) Watson, the article was developed from a chapter in Dr Watson’s book,  A Walk on the Science Side,completed just before his death..

The quality of New Zealand’s research and development is extremely high and is often the pioneering nature of that R&D which sets it apart, the authors say.

It has a distinctive character which is robust and resourceful, often multi-disciplinary, breaks boundaries, challenges preconceptions and tackles traditional problems in innovative ways.

This character may be the result of New Zealand’s distance from world centres, with the unique mix of freedoms and constraints that distance brings.

It may result from learning to make do with the relatively few resources that we have, “the No 8 wire” approach.

It may reflect our creative responses to chronic under-funding or the can-do attitude that is inevitable in a small society.

And because our R&D is carried out in relatively small institutions, it has a certain practical intimacy to it.

But New Zealand sits in the lower range of OECD metrics on researchers and science spending — eight researchers per thousand employed, with 1.2% of GDP spent on R&D.

The top country, Israel, employs 18 out of 1000 and 4.3% respectively.

The article recalls how NZ leaders, in two tough economic times, had the vision to establish the New Zealand University Act of 1874 to build the nation’s knowledge capacity and, in 1926, to establish the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) to build science that supported industry and economic development.

The DSIR surveyed, identified and classified the country’s animal, vegetable and mineral resources; worked on ways to increase the utilisation of natural resources and reduce the risks of natural disasters; bred better plant varieties; developed better pest and disease control methods for agriculture and horticulture; provided advice for industrial developments; standards for commerce and industry; and data for the maintenance of public health.

In 1989, the Government restructured and partially commercialised R&D institutes (including the DSIR, Ministry of Agriculture and Technology, Research Division of the NZ Meteorological Service, and others) into corporatised new Crown Research Institutes (CRIs).

Their funding allocations were placed in the Public Good Science Fund for competitive funding.

The article says:

In the absence of strategic planning we tend to allow the system to meander wherever the funding takes us.

This puts pressure on science culture, institutions and commercialisation.

Compared to New Zealand’s sports icons, our scientific community is perhaps not held in high regard.

For example, there is not one agricultural scientist on the primary production (agriculture) committee.

In the 2018 Queens Birthday Honours there were few scientists, but plenty of sportspeople, community carers and of course medical professionals received awards.

The article says the failed attempt to develop New Zealand’s biotechnology economy has been a core theme of national and regional economic development strategies since the publication of “Growing an Innovative NZ”.

This is reflected in our slide down the rankings in the Global Innovation Index:

In 2012, we ranked as the 13th most innovative economy in the world — now we are 22nd.

Israel has climbed from 17th to 11th.

Agriculture in Israel is now only three per cent of the GNP.

New Zealand ranks 22nd in R&D and Israel is third.

Israel is now a high-tech nation.

Ultimately, no science strategy can work unless it is led by a partnership between the leading scientists and government, the article says.

We must develop a science-driven model of policy setting, in which scientists are involved and respected from the very beginning.

Science is a common good, and it is in the national interest that our capability be better directed, maintained, resourced and utilised in support of national economic, environmental and social goals.

  • Dr Salinger is a Visiting Professor at the University of Haifa, Israel. The late Dr James (Jim) Watson, founder of New Zealand’s first biotech company, Genesis Research and Development, was a passionate advocate for science in New Zealand and former President of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Experts comment on study showing hotter and longer marine heatwaves over the past century

Marine “heatwaves” like those which stoked New Zealand’s record-hot summer have become longer, stronger and more frequent over the past century, especially in the past four decades, the New Zealand Herald reports (HERE).

With more than 90 per cent of the heat caused by global warming going into our oceans, the scientists behind a new international study say the trend will only continue.

The study is published today in Nature Communications.

The New Zealand Herald’s science writer, Jamie Morton, explains that marine heatwaves happen when sea surface temperatures (SSTs) rise as a result of stronger-than-normal warm ocean currents, or from being forced by the atmosphere.

In the case of summer’s Tasman Sea marine heatwave, it was a case of the latter.

It was a freak combination of persistent highs, a La Nina climate system in the tropics and a positive Southern Annular Mode pattern to our south, all set against a background of climate change.

Over what was our hottest summer ever observed, SSTs around New Zealand climbed to at least 1.5C above average – and in some spots off the West Coast rose as high as 6C above average.

While its effects made for balmy surf at our favourite beaches, it also melted ice caps, pushed warm water fish south and had a big effect on growing conditions in orchards and vineyards.

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The Feds get in behind Dr Salinger on climate change with a call for more R&D investment

Federated Farmers’ spokesman on climate change, Dr William Rolleston, has called for more investment in research into new crops and pasture varieties to deal with the greater environmental stress farms will face because of climate change.

He also said water storage is more than a farming tool – “it is a legitimate climate adaptation tool as well”.

His statement on behalf of the feds (here) was triggered by data gathered by climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger which show last year was New Zealand’s second warmest on record.

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