"Think globally, act locally" the key message from the NZAGRC 2012 Annual Conference
One hundred and fifty greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation focused scientists, policy makers and industry representatives made the trip to the Travelodge in Palmerston North to attend the second Annual NZAGRC Conference.
The conference provided an excellent opportunity to reflect on the international context in which New Zealand's agricultural GHG emissions research programme resides. The day also included a wide range of presentations and posters covering research underway and how this may be applied on-farm in the future.
Dr Andy Reisinger, NZAGRC Deputy Director, opened the conference by presenting an overview of the global challenge to secure food supply in an uneven world and for a growing and increasingly affluent population, whilst maintaining environmental integrity. Bringing his focus to New Zealand, he emphasised that to allow sustained absolute reductions whilst supporting projected output growth, new technologies and practices are needed. This requires a multi-pronged effort that can expand existing options, develop new ones and creates and delivers tools for implementation. The NZ government has recognised the long term and global nature of the challenge and is providing dedicated research funding. Andy concluded by stating that the "journey will inevitably have many twists and turns and some dead ends, but we are confident that it will deliver".
Four science sessions followed, covering methane, nitrous oxide, soil carbon and integrated systems research. Four speakers, including one leading international scientist, presented in each session. This provided an opportunity for delegates to hear the latest developments in areas outside of their regular sphere of interest. A number of the audience commented afterwards that they had gained new knowledge and some even experienced "eureka" moments.
John Hutchings, General Manager (Sustainability Policy and Carbon) at Fonterra provided a motivating summing up to the conference. In line with it being the start of the year, he provided his seven "wishes" for a more sustainable and efficient NZ agricultural sector: improvements in emissions efficiency; producers becoming more aware of GHG issues; optimal research investment; trusted industry participation in policy making; cost effective management of liabilities; emission efficient production of milk; and all parties working together respectfully and collaboratively going forward. He highlighted that good progress was being made towards fulfilling a number of his goals already.
Returning to the opening comments made by Andy Reisinger, John quoted a recent article by John Vidal in The Observer ("The Future of Food", 22 January 2012) which suggested that science's answer to feeding an extra 2.5 billion people on the planet is a diet of algae, insects and meat grown in a lab. Whilst this may be one option, from a NZ dairying perspective "you can't go past milk!" So for the foreseeable future, the NZ research effort will continue to support local agricultural producers and industry's future goals, while keeping a close eye on how the research can be implemented globally.