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. 

Learn Profile - Adriano Nascente

LEARN Research Aims to Give Farmers Options for GHG Reductions

Visiting Brazilian research scientist Dr Adriano Nascente is currently working on a project to help give farmers options for management practices that will reduce nitrous oxide emissions and maintain or increase stocks of soil carbon.

Adriano is visiting under a GRASS Award, one of the awards offered by the New Zealand Government to support the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. It enables exchanges between New Zealand senior scientists and contemporaries from other GRA member countries to collaborate on livestock greenhouse gas mitigation.

With Dr David Whitehead of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, he is testing the hypothesis that manipulating carbon inputs to soil will modify the microbiological processes that regulate nitrous oxide emissions and soil carbon storage. The carbon inputs are being manipulated using lucerne, with different simulated grazing intensity and sugar addition.

Adriano arrived at the beginning of October 2018 and he has worked at a field site located at Ashley Dene Research and Development Station and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Lincoln, Canterbury, until the end of this June.

A research scientist with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), he works at the Embrapa Rice and Beans Research Centre, specialising in agricultural systems that support sustainable social, economic and environmental development.

“I knew David Whitehead from a project supported by Embrapa and the New Zealand Embassy in Suriname, and knew he works with techniques to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. When I had the opportunity to have a period as a visiting scientist, I asked David if it was possible to come to New Zealand and undertake research together,” says Adriano.

“The project involves the effects of manipulating carbon, adding or removing it from soil while regulating nitrogen and carbon cycles, with the focus being on reducing nitrous oxide emissions.”

The research team is conducting two trials, one long-term and the other short-term.

The long-term trial involves an experimental design of a random block with four treatments of lucerne and four replications of treatments. The four treatments are 1. addition of carbon as sugar; 2. reducing carbon inputs every two weeks by cutting the lucerne at ground level; 3. reducing carbon inputs every two weeks by cutting the lucerne to an average height between a control and ground level; and finally, 4. control with no cutting and no sugar addition.

The short-term trial also involves an experimental design of a random block with four replications. Treatments of lucerne involve 1. addition of carbon as sugar, then 2. control with no sugar added. Measurements at the field site are made every three days.

Starting in November, the carbon availability index was measured every two weeks until differences between treatments were detected, which happened at the end of January. Then, the team quantified in each trial the emissions of N2O and CO2 at the soil surface, the soil nitrate and ammonium concentration, soil temperature and water content, cold and hot water extractable carbon.

“We also extracted DNA for gene copy abundance to quantify specific genes involved in nitrification in the short-term trial,” says Adriano.

Explaining the significance of the work, he adds: “We know that carbon inputs to soil could directly affect microbial activity that regulates nitrogen transformations. We expect that better understanding of these interactions between carbon inputs and nitrogen transformations will lead to improved management practices to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions.”

Knowledge gained from the research will be communicated to scientists worldwide and end users in a report to NZAGRC, a presentation and a peer-reviewed article submitted to a journal.

Adriano says he will use the knowledge gained in New Zealand to further his research projects in Brazil, where work on crop-livestock integration farming is important in recovering degraded pasture.

“There, we are seeking indicators to evaluate the sustainability of agricultural systems. Application of processes related to nitrogen and carbon cycling that we worked on here in New Zealand will be very important for Brazil’s agricultural systems to see if we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“With David Whitehead, we have opened a door to discussing other projects that could help Brazilian or New Zealand agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Photo Credit: Bradley White

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