Science Review 2010
L to R: Dr Stephen Goldson and Dr Andrew West
We are pleased to present this first issue of the AgResearch Science Review.
This compilation seeks to highlight just some of the long-term science produced by AgResearch scientists and technicians and those of its antecedent organisations. Indeed, much of the work described herein has literally spanned generations. The examples given demonstrate how long-term, determined and well-directed research and development has made, and will continue to make, massive and fundamental contributions to the New Zealand pastoral sector. It is important to note that the items discussed should be seen as samples of the work going on and, as such, it is possible that a future administration of AgResearch may wish to produce additional editions of the AgResearch Science Review describing other examples of research.
The requirements of the pastoral sector are not static. Examples of change include varying market demand for meat products, the potential devastating effects of pest incursion, pastoral land use intensification and the menacing spectre of climate change. None of these sorts of exigencies can be resolved by shortterm, project-based research. Naive responses simply do not do the job. For example, there is no way New Zealand’s pastoral sector can be protected from pests by blanket applications of insecticide, or meat quality improved simply by cooking it better or making it look better.
While only some examples of AgResearch’s science and technology are covered in this edition of the Science Review, they consistently point to improved productivity along the whole value chains in dairy, meat and wool. They also seek to protect productivity gains through such means as improved plant and animal genetics, reduced gut parasite burdens or newly developed ways of protecting water in intensifying agroecosystems.
The pastoral sector is the principal industrial area where New Zealand really does have scientific and technological heft of international merit. This is obviously to the credit of the country’s highly skilled and innovative farmers, processors and marketers. However, none of this is assured in perpetuity; competition is increasing from lower-cost economies and resources like water, energy and fertilisers are limiting. Against this background world demand for food is growing. The science and technology created by AgResearch must continue to provide a critical contribution if New Zealand’s most important sector is going to maintain its leadership. There is simply no other way.
As a Crown Research Institute (CRI), AgResearch does its job in a rapidly-changing operational environment. In this work its 2020 Science plan has been used to help guide scientific direction wherever possible. With the Government’s recent adoption of the findings of the CRI Taskforce, such a requirement will become less complicated. The CRI Taskforce has also called for more profound scientific discovery and more effective adoption of the know-how and technologies thus created. Fortuitously, such clarification of requirement has coincided with the appearance of this volume.
The work to produce this Science Review began prior to the CRI Taskforce in part because in the routine and necessary production of newsletters and press releases, focus on the essential, long term nature of much of the Institute’s efforts could not be sufficiently highlighted.
Much of the work described in this edition is the direct result of funding from the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, the Marsden Fund, the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (née Meat & Wool New Zealand), Deer Industry New Zealand, the AGMARDT Charitable Trust, Ovita and many others, such as interested farmer groups. These sources of funding are gratefully acknowledged and in some way this document seeks to show how at least some of it has been applied.
We wish to acknowledge the genuine effort made by many of AgResearch’s leading scientists in helping to make the material in this Science Review available. Thanks also for the dedication and determination of Dr Laura Sessions from The Write Image, whose writing skills have made this material so readily accessible. Likewise, many thanks to Mrs Lois McKay and Ms Allanah James who both valiantly sought to maintain the schedules required to get this document finished.
Dr Stephen Goldson
Chief Scientist (until July 2010)
Dr Andrew West
Chief Executive (until July 2010)