Plants & GHGs

The NZAGRC’s former nitrous oxide and soil carbon work streams were combined into one programme this year. This ensures a strong overall framework, closer communication and full GHG analyses across the programme. The programme focusses on three key areas:

1. Identifying and prioritising plant traits for low GHG emissions;

2. Mitigation practices to maintain soil carbon and reduce nitrous oxide emissions at paddock scale; and

3. Defining the achievable soil carbon stabilisation capacity of New Zealand grassland soils.

Current progress and research stories

Principal Investigator - Dr Cecile de Klein

Cecile’s Journey from the Sports Field to the Kiwi Farm Paddock

Dr Cecile De Klein was captain of the Dutch women’s rugby team in the 1991 Women’s World Cup.

Away from the sports field, her career path led her to become an internationally-recognised expert on nitrous oxide emissions from soils, and co-leader of the NZAGRC’s Plant and Greenhouse Gases research programme. As a Principal Investigator for the NZGRC programme she is involved with measuring the effects of pasture plants and pasture plant communities on those emissions.

She says “the research is showing that there is no easy answer to the nitrous oxide challenge. There is no silver bullet that can help us meet the multiple, often contrasting, economic social and environmental goals. A multi-pronged approach is required and collaboration/co-development with all stakeholders is critical. Work through NzOnet has also highlighted the value of collaboration with MPI and across science providers.”

Born and educated in The Netherlands, Cecile’s academic interest was initially in biology at the University of Utrecht, from there she branched out to study landscape ecology and agricultural science.

The environmental impact of agriculture was a particular area of study, working with a group of farmers on effluent. “We helped them define problems or pressure points and what they could do to improve how they use their effluent,” says Cecile.

That became a joint PhD project with the Netherlands’ agricultural university in Wageningen, in which Cecile studied nitrous oxide and the way nitrogen cycles through the soil, contributing to greenhouse gases.

Following a postdoc in Cambridge, UK, she came to New Zealand in 1995 and took a position with AgResearch along with her Kiwi husband, scientist Ross Monaghan.

Cecile’s international reputation meant she led an international Global Research Alliance project on developing guidelines for measuring N2O emissions using chamber methodologies and was New Zealand’s representative on the international panel to review the IPCC inventory methodology for estimating N2O emissions.

“The GRA project involved bringing together N2O experts from across the globe, to write a guideline document on the chamber methodology for measuring N2O emissions from soil,” says Cecile. The guidelines are available on the GRA website.”

Overall, Cecile is convinced continuing research into nitrous oxide mitigation could prove fruitful as part of New Zealand’s efforts to achieve GHG reductions, and is likely to produce co-benefits from N2O mitigation minimising the loss of nitrates into waterways.


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