NZAGRC Science Leadership Team

The role of NZAGRC Science Leadership Team (SLT) is to play a key part in the development, implementation and monitoring of all of the Centre’s science programmes and strategies.  It consists of respected New Zealand-based researchers with excellent science credentials accompanied by strong leadership, communication, strategic and inter-personal skills with expertise in those areas of science covered in the NZAGRC Strategy and Science Plan.

Membership is agreed by the Steering Group and includes the NZAGRC Principal Investigators in addition to the NZAGRC Director and NZAGRC Operations Manager.  

Dr Graeme Attwood  AgResearch  
Dr Cecile DeKlein   AgResearch 
Professor Hong Di  Lincoln University 
Dr Robyn Dynes  AgResearch  
Dr Peter Janssen  AgResearch  
Dr David Whitehead   Manaaki Whenua


Science leadership & capability building 

The NZAGRC is committed to providing opportunities for researchers to be trained and work with leading experts in New Zealand.  Some students go on to continue their studies or enter a postdoctoral position under guidance from NZAGRC science leaders, other enter into industry based positions.

The NZAGRC supports more than 50 researchers and students by providing funding via its core research programme or via its student scholarships programme.

Below are profiles of our scientists and past students. 

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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