Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Research looks to combat soil water shortage on farms

10 April 2014

Flower Fellowship recipient’s research looks to combat soil water shortage on farms

As New Zealand farms continue to face problems associated with ongoing drought, University of Waikato doctoral student Jack Pronger, originally from Cambridge, hopes his current research project will contribute to an improvement in pastoral drought resilience.

As the recipient of the Flower Doctoral Fellowship in Agribusiness, a scholarship worth $30,000 a year for three years, Jack will look to address the ongoing impacts of drought on dry land farming, or farms that aren’t irrigated.

The Flower Fellowship is awarded to a student whose research has relevance in the agribusiness sector, focusing particularly on issues of food production, farmer ownership and labour issues, New Zealand’s role in global agriculture and the preservation of fertile soils. The University of Waikato has a comprehensive agribusiness programme, headed by leading agriculture commentator Professor Jacqueline Rowarth.

Jack’s research will focus on identifying approaches to increase drought resilience by using more diverse mixes of pasture species - research that could have a significant impact on farm production. The research is being supervised by Professor Louis Schipper and Dr Dave Campbell from the School of Science.

His PhD will look at differences in seasonal water use between mixed sward pasture systems (a combination of different grass, legume and herb species) and ryegrass/clover pasture systems under dairy grazing.

“The current knowledge of paddock-scale water use and water uptake efficiency is pretty limited,” he says. “To cope with the increasing incidence of drought, farmers need pasture species that can access water deeper in the soil, and/or reduce paddock-scale water use while maintaining agronomic production.”

He says there’s been little research into paddock-scale water uptake of managed pasture systems in New Zealand, a gap he feels is worth addressing. With the economics of farming practices changing and the ongoing issue of climate change, identifying ways to combat the effects of drought is more important than ever.

Compared to traditional pasture systems of perennial ryegrass and white clover, mixed sward pasture systems have been shown to increase dry matter production during dry periods, while maintaining similar cumulative dry matter production year-round.

“Mixed sward pasture systems might also potentially reduce some of the negative environmental effects of farming through reduced nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions and increased soil carbon sequestration,” says Jack.

Increased dry season pasture production may support more milk and meat production, bringing with it wider economic benefits for New Zealand.

“The knowledge gained through my research will hopefully contribute to more efficient water usage of pastoral systems, and increased pastoral production that will likely benefit the economy down the track.”

Jack couldn’t be more grateful for the Flower Fellowship. “It is a very generous scholarship and also well thought out in that you are encouraged to get your research out into the community.”

Hamilton couple Bill Flower and his late wife Joan established the Flower Fellowship for the simple reason that they, as Mr Flower says, “wanted to do something good”.

The Flowers have made a habit of giving back. In addition to the Flower Fellowship they have previously made available undergraduate prizes in global and environmental economics, and they often used to take in less fortunate young people onto their farm to work and live.

Mr Flower says that success comes down to having an inquiring mind and the willingness to work hard. “You only get out of this world what you put in,” he says.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Research: ‘Ageing Well’ Science Challenge Launched

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today launched the Ageing Well National Science Challenge, confirming initial funding of $14.6 million. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Govt Resisting Pressure To Pump More Cash Into Solid Energy

Prime Minister John Key says it is “not the government’s preferred option” to make a fresh capital injection into the troubled state-owned coal miner, Solid Energy, but dodged journalists’ questions at his weekly press conference on whether that might prove necessary... More>>

ALSO:

Lagest Ever Privacy Breach Award: NZCU Baywide Accepts “Severe” Censure In Cake Case

NZCU Baywide says that once it was found to have committed a breach of a former staff member’s privacy, it had attempted to resolve the matter... the censure and remedies for its actions taken almost three years ago are “severe” but accepted, and will hopefully draw a line under the matter. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: PayPal Stops Processing Mega Payments; NZX Listing Still On

PayPal has ceased processing payments for Mega, the file storage and encryption firm looking to join the New Zealand stock market via a reverse listing of TRS Investments, amid claims it is not a legitimate cloud storage service. More>>

ALSO:

Housing Policy: Auckland Densification As Popular As Ebola, English Says

Finance Minister Bill English said calls by the Reserve Bank Governor for more densification in Auckland’s housing were “about as popular in parts of Auckland as Ebola” would be. More>>

ALSO:

Crown Accounts: NZ Government Deficit Smaller Than Expected In First Half

The New Zealand government's operating deficit was smaller than expected in the first six months of the financial year, as the consumption and corporate tax take rose ahead of forecast in December, having lagged estimates in previous months. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news