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Masters research explores pasture pulling in pumice soils

31 March, 2014

Masters research explores pasture pulling in pumice soils

University of Waikato Earth Sciences student Emma Bagley has won a C. Alma Baker Postgraduate Scholarship for her agriculture-focused masters research project.

The Massy University scholarship, worth $13,000, will go towards Emma’s research into the occurrence and causes of pasture pulling under dairy farming on pumice soils.

“Pasture pulling occurs when grazing cows pull whole clumps of pasture from the soil. Pasture pulling can be a serious issue because it can diminish pasture production and can result in the pasture becoming less palatable to livestock. Pasture pulling is of particular concern in the central North Island, notably in pumice soils,” says Emma.

Emma has selected 15 paddocks located near Mangakino in South Waikato that provide a good spread of different pasture ages, all on pumice soil. The paddocks were made available by the Wairarapa Moana farming group.

“I’ll be undertaking a monitoring programme to investigate seasonal changes, measuring parameters such as weather and soil moisture conditions, pasture composition, rooting depth, and presence of grass grub or black beetle.”

Emma will also complete associated laboratory analyses to investigate the chemical and physical properties of the soil. This has the potential to establish if properties change seasonally and if they are correlated with occurrence of pasture pulling. She will also use statistical analyses, such as multivariate analyses, to try and identify the major factors that contribute to the occurrence of pasture pulling.

The former Huntly College student completed a Bachelor of Science at Waikato University and is now in the second year of a Master of Science. She has also received funding for her masters research via DairyNZ and a University of Waikato Masters Fees Award.

Her research supervisors include University of Waikato Earth Sciences lecturer Dr Megan Balks and AgResearch’s Dr Gina Lucci. Emma currently works casually at AgResearch in Hamilton in the Nutrient Management and Environmental Footprinting team. Upon completion of her studies she hopes to find work in a scientific research organisation such as AgResearch.


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