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

Capability building - Dr William Talbot

William Targets Career in Scientific Research

Support from the NZAGRC is helping William Talbot on his pathway to becoming a research scientist and continuing to help find ways of economically reducing the environmental impacts of farming.

Christchurch-born William received scholarships from NZAGRC which allowed him to develop his skills and focus on nitrogen losses from farmland.

“These scholarships helped lead me into my PhD studies at Lincoln University. My PhD research work is designed to discover ways to reduce nitrogen losses from farms and is part of a large MBIE funded programme led by Dr David Whitehead of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.”

“The NZAGRC has helped fund the measurement of N2O emissions in my PhD studies. The funding for the nitrous oxide (N2O) emission measurements in my PhD were extremely important to make sure there was no pollution-swapping.”

“I am now in my final year of my PhD, focusing on the use of plantain and Italian ryegrass to reduce N2O emissions and nitrogen leaching. I’m very grateful to the NZAGRC for helping fund my studies and research project.”

William’s research has looked at innovative ways to reduce N losses from soil by manipulating carbon inputs.

“In the first year of my PhD research programme we applied a readily-available carbon source to ryegrass/white clover pasture and lucerne to assess the carbon’s potential to reduce nitrogen losses from soil. My research found that the addition of carbon to soils reduced nitrogen leaching by up to 89%, while not having a significant effect on N2O emissions. Measuring N2O emissions in this study was important to ensure there was no pollution-swapping.”

In his follow up year’s work William has focused on plantain as a method of reducing nitrogen losses – “As plantain potentially releases important carbon-based compounds (e.g. biological nitrification inhibitors) that reduce N2O emissions and nitrogen leaching.”

He says Professor Keith Cameron and Professor Hong Di have been great mentors. “They have been extremely helpful in guiding me through my studies. Roger Atkinson and Trevor Hendry have also provided excellent technical assistance and mentorship to me.”

William has had an interest in science from a very young age. Educated at Heathcote Valley primary school and then Shirley Boys’ High School, he was interested in the core subjects of science, maths and English, with a particular interest in biology and statistics. His interest in agriculture was sparked at the age of 16, when he got a summer job at Lincoln University, digging lysimeters.

 


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