Our People

The NZAGRC is staffed by a dedicated and enthusiastic team.

The NZAGRC Director, Operations Manager, Project Analyst, International Capability and Training Coordinator, and Administrator are employed by AgResearch on behalf of the NZAGRC, and are based in Palmerston North. The Deputy Director (International) and Operations Manager (International), also employed by AgResearch, are based in Wellington.  Read more about the NZAGRC staff

The NZAGRC team includes more than 50 highly motivated scientists and technical staff delivering high quality science. This team is led by 7 experts in their field providing science leadership and advice to the NZAGRC. Read more about the NZAGRC SLT 

The NZAGRC receives direction from its Steering Group who met quarterly and oversee the NZAGRC's performance against its strategic plan. Read more about the NZAGRC SG 

The NZAGRC receives expert advice on the relevance and quality of its research programme for the international and Maori communities. See more about our advisors page for more information.

Below are some profiles of Our People and the work they do. 

Capability building - Maria Jimena Rodriguez Gelos

Plantain Offers Nitrogen Reduction Potential

Research work conducted by Jimena Rodriguez Gelos may help provide evidence to support the belief that plantain could help farmers reduce the nitrogen load on their farms – an important part of the fight against climate change.

Jimena, from Durazno, Uruguay, is a PhD student in the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University studying changes in the natural control of nitrate (NO3) leaching, nitrous oxide (N2O) and ammonia losses with plantain pastures.

She is in the second year of her studies involving grazed field drainage trials at Massey’s No.4 Dairy Farm, where her main supervisor is Professor Peter Kemp and co-supervisors are Associate Professor Dave Horne, Dr James Hanly, Dr Soledad Navarrete and Dr Peter Bishop.

The team’s and Jimena’s aim is to answer the question - will plantain-based pastures significantly reduce nitrate leaching, nitrous oxide and ammonia losses from grazed dairy pastures?

“Plantain has been shown to reduce NO3 leaching from dairy farms and this research will have positive impacts at a number of different levels. I think that if implemented correctly, farmers will be able to decrease their N load on-farm, reducing the negative impacts on the environment.”

Jimena says she is interested in any mitigation tools to reduce nitrogen losses from dairy systems to the environment. In this project she is not only able to study the N cycle into the soil but also the gaseous N losses.

Jimena comes from a rural background in Uruguay, where her family had a beef and sheep farm and cultivated their own food. The family had to move to Durazno for her secondary school education – “Durazno is a small town, only 30,000 inhabitants, however, for me it was a huge town.”

When she finished high school, she moved to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, to study biological sciences majoring in ecology at university. A project comparing nitrous oxide emissions from two different production systems -- dairy and beef – prompted further interest in this field and when Jimena decided to do a master’s degree, she contacted Professor Surinder Saggar in New Zealand, who had published papers on the subject.

She did her master’s degree at Massey University in 2012, writing her thesis on the ammonia losses that came from applying urease inhibitor Agrotain® on pasture soil before, on the same day and after the deposition of animal urine.

Jimena says the NZAGRC’s scholarship has been important – “I can use that money to cover the cost of analysing N2O gases, which are very expensive. Otherwise, I would have to do it by myself and it is a time-consuming task. Each sample has to be injected every five minutes manually and in each sample day I collected 100 samples.”

Looking to the future, Jimena hopes to continue doing research using plantain as a mitigation tool.

“I believe that lot of work has to be done to understand the effect of plantain in soil N transformations and how the environmental factors are affecting N2O losses from soil cultivated under plantain.”


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