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Plant & Food Research Staff Recognised At Science New Zealand 2023 Awards

Science and support staff from Plant & Food Research who were involved in the response to Cyclone Gabrielle were honoured at the Science New Zealand 2023 National Awards in Wellington last night. The event also celebrated two Plant & Food Research staff for their contributions to biosecurity and soil science.

The Plant & Food Research Team Award was presented to the organisation’s cyclone response team. Hawke’s Bay, often referred to as Aotearoa New Zealand’s fruit bowl, suffered widespread devastation earlier this year, with Cyclone Gabrielle resulting in the tragic loss of lives, homes and livelihoods. In response to the severe impact of the event on the horticulture industry, staff from Plant & Food Research immediately began collaborating with the sector. The team provided orchardists with information and expertise to enable evidence-based decisions to be made quickly during extremely trying conditions, with growers needing to urgently harvest their crops, shift silt, and minimise tree deaths.

“Our Cyclone Gabrielle Response Team has involved over 50 research and support staff across 13 different science teams – and this work is far from over, with the team committed to helping the industry navigate this recovery phase and grow back even better," says Plant & Food Research Chief Scientist, Dr Richard Newcomb.

Dr David Teulon, Principal Scientist, was presented with the Plant & Food Research Lifetime Achievement Award for three decades of work in entomology and biosecurity. Between 2013 and 2023 Dr Teulon held the role of Director of the multi-partner science collaboration Better Border Biosecurity (B3). His leadership in this area has been over a period of ever-increasing biosecurity risks. He has played an important role in catalysing resources to support the science response to significant biosecurity threats to Aotearoa New Zealand.

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“As a result of his work, B3 is more inclusive and multidisciplinary with Dr Teulon having overseen the growth of social science in B3, the integration of Mātauranga Māori and the creation of new mentorship opportunities for the next generation of biosecurity experts,” says Dr Newcomb.

Senior Soil Scientist Dr Brendon Malcolm received the Plant & Food Research Early Career Researcher Award for his work developing tools that lead to better environmental outcomes and improved profitability for farmers. Over the last eight years he has led research which has proven sowing a catch crop after winter forage grazing can reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 60 percent. The findings of this previously unchartered area of science have been a breakthrough in the battle against soil nitrates and unlocked a new land management tool for farmers that is now being widely promoted by the dairy, arable and sheep and beef industries.

Dr Malcolm’s rural upbringing inform his practical and grounded approach to his work – with the majority of his research conducted on commercial farms and in close collaboration with partnering farmers. He has a strong focus on creating readily adoptable practices and has been using various forms of communication, including social media, to share his science with farmers, and the wider public.

Science New Zealand represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) including Plant & Food Research. The annual awards recognise research excellence at each CRI.

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