Lincoln gene laboratory trio win Primary Industries science award

The work of three members of Lincoln University’s Gene-Marker Laboratory to help breed healthier, more resilient, and superior livestock, has been recognised in the Primary Industries Awards.

The lab’s director, Professor Jon Hickford, principal researcher, Dr Huitong Zhou, and lab manager, Freeman Fang, were given the Science and Research Award.

Professor Hickford is the Immediate Past President of the NZIAHS.

The judges said they were impressed with the holistic approach of the Lincoln University team, who brought a highly professional genetic approach to the business of farming.

“Their genetic program was impressive as was their relationship with farmers. This guaranteed a practical result from a highly specialised scientific process.” Continue reading

Megan Woods opens new science building at Lincoln University

The first of two new science buildings at Lincoln University has been officially opened by the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Dr Megan Woods.

The new building will be home to over 50 staff and postgraduate students from Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Sciences, responsible for teaching and research in the animal sciences.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie said the new science facility will strengthen Lincoln’s commitment to help drive New Zealand’s transition to a more productive, low-emissions economy.

“Lincoln University has always been a chief driver of innovation in agriculture, particularly in the food and fibre sectors, and our new facilities will position us to take an even more prominent role in developing solutions for the most pressing challenges facing the land-based industries,” he said.

“Our university has been producing primary sector graduates for more than 140 years, and we remain dedicated to attracting and inspiring future generations of tauira; equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to grow a better future.

“It’s appropriate and timely that we deliver a new cutting-edge science facility as a base where our people, including our world-leading researchers, can continue their critical contribution to shaping more prosperous and sustainable communities.” Continue reading

Regenerative agriculture – white paper calls for more science but critics say snake oil needs no testing

Since the NZIAHS published its special issue of AgScience with a special focus on regenerative agriculture in December, the call for more research has been reinforced by the preparation of a “white paper” by a country-wide group of researchers.  They have identified key research topics for further study to improve understanding and practice of regenerative farming.

The paper, Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research Pathways to Build Science-Based Evidence and National Narratives, sets out 17 priority research topics and introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand.

Regenerative agriculture potentially had an important role to play in New Zealand, although evidence was urgently required, said the lead author, Dr Gwen Grelet, senior researcher at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

“Regenerative agriculture has huge momentum internationally in all parts of the food system,” she said.  “It is not a magic bullet but its grass-roots popularity with farmers and food consumers means it has huge potential for driving the transformation of Aotearoa’s agri-food system to move our country closer to its goals.”

In a newsletter to NZIAHS members today, the institute’s president, Professor Jon Hickford, notes that some concerns have been expressed to him about the white paper.   One issue is whether it fairly reflects the views which RA sceptics expressed during consultations in the preparation of the paper.  Another issue is who was paid how much to produce the paper.

When it comes to the paper’s conclusions, however, there should be no disagreement, Professor Hickford said.  The paper insists (as does the NZIAHS) there is a pressing need and demand to test the claims made by RA proponents using robust scientific methodology. Continue reading

Regenerative agriculture – why robust research is critical

The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science – concerned about the dearth of sound science underpinning the hype surrounding regenerative agriculture – has welcomed the Ministry for Primary Industries’ recent call for proposals for projects that will investigate regenerative farming practices.

Funding for successful proposals has been made available through the Ministry’s Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures co-investment fund, which aims to have projects under way by mid-2021.

“It can’t happen soon enough,” says Professor Jon Hickford, president of the NZIAHS.

“For some time we have been disquieted by the ballyhoo in support of regenerative agriculture in the absence of scientific studies into the implications of applying these practices to farm practices in this country.

“A sound evidence base is needed to test and confirm what works in New Zealand soils, climates, and farming systems.Continue reading

Scientists brace for the national lockdown as govt raises alert level in action against coronavirus pandemic

Professor Jon Hickford, president of the NZIAHS, has advised members the Institute is acutely aware of the impact COVID-19 is having on the nation – its health, social fabric and economic wellbeing – and on the science community. The future is going to challenge us all, he says.

The Institute is encouraging members to keep themselves safe in the workplace and at home and to take comfort from the fact their scientist colleagues will play a crucial role in getting us through this difficult time.

“I ask that – to the best of your abilities – you support our agricultural and horticultural sectors because they will keep the New Zealand economy ticking over when many other industries are stalling or failing altogether.”

The newslettter draws attention to New Zealand’s coronavirus alert increasing  to level 3 level 4 at the end of today  to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone then (from 11.59pm) is required to stay home except essential services. Continue reading