Science

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 - Camilla Gardiner

Plantain Study Holds Potential for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Camilla has just finished her PhD project which studied nitrogen compounds and plant metabolites in cow urine and identified those which might minimise nitrous oxide emissions. In particular, the research focused on chemicals contained in plantain, a herb with a fibrous and coarse root system that grows throughout New Zealand.

Indications from the research are that aucubin, a compound found in plantain, may inhibit the release of nitrous oxide from patches of cow urine in paddocks, and may also prevent some nitrogen leaching from the soil and ending up in waterways.

Camilla’s research was conducted under the science leadership and capability building programme of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), which funds researchers to work with leading experts in New Zealand and prepares them to pursue either post doctoral positions under guidance from NZAGRC science leaders, or enter into industry-based positions.

“The concentrated application of nitrogen in the urine patch is way too much for plants to absorb, so the excess nitrogen can easily be lost as nitrous oxide into the atmosphere or as nitrate into groundwater.

“My research looked at ways to inhibit certain nitrogen transfer pathways, particularly nitrification. We looked at the way grazing livestock’s diet can alter urine composition, and how these changes can affect urine patch nitrogen loss. Varying urine nitrogen composition had no effect on nitrous oxide emissions and some urine nitrogen compounds showed no inhibiting effect on microbes in the soil.

“However we got some encouraging results when we looked at plantain and its active ingredient aucubin.”

The research team collected urine from cows, manually added aucubin to it, and then tested it in paddocks of perennial ryegrass and white clover to get a comparison with the effects of the cow’s usual urine.

“Some trials showed a significant reduction in nitrous oxide emissions, particularly in the first ten days after the cows being released into the paddock, while others were less successful. The project also revealed a second line of research potential – the roots of the plantain may also be excreting aucubin into the soil and inhibiting the leaching of nitrate. Plantain is being increasingly used in farms across New Zealand, as a result of many studies across farm systems, grazing management, plant science and soil science.

Those are areas of research Camilla is furthering in her new role as a post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Lincoln University’s Department of Soil and Physical Sciences.

Originally from Seattle, she moved to Canterbury from the USA at the end of July 2015. She had studied Environmental Sciences with honours in Soil Biogeochemistry at the University of California Berkeley and was encouraged by her thesis supervisor to investigate PhD options in New Zealand. That led to her working with Dr Tim Clough under the NZAGRC’s nitrous oxide mitigation programme, and she has just obtained NZ residency.


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