Story: Agricultural and horticultural research
Page 7 – Plant & Food Research, Landcare and NIWA
Three more Crown research institutes involved with land-based research are the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research (Plant & Food Research), Landcare Research – Manaaki Whenua, and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
Plant & Food Research
Plant & Food Research was formed on 1 December 2008 from the merger of Crop & Food Research and HortResearch. It focuses on research into horticulture and crop and food science.
Crop & Food Research worked on the sustainable production of new, arable and vegetable crops; the development of pest and disease resistance mechanisms; and the development of new food products, their health benefits and medical properties. It also investigated the food value of seafoods and marine extracts. Products developed include:
- AspireNZ, a computerised management system for asparagus growers
- Aphidwatch, which provides aphid flight records, virus forecasts and other information to growers
- Plant-SyNZ, a new tool for assessing the biodiversity of insect and mite herbivores on native plants.
HortResearch specialised in fruit science, associated product development, and sustainable production systems – especially relating to herbicide and pesticide use, but also to irrigation. Successful products it developed include:
- Zespri Gold kiwifruit
- new cultivars of baby kiwifruit
- a number of blueberry cultivars
- the ripeSense sensor label, which indicates when packaged fruit has ripened, and was rated by Time magazine as one of the 36 greatest inventions of 2004.
In November 2007 HortResearch announced that it had bred bees that were resistant to the varroa bee mite. This would offer major relief for an industry in real danger from the mite.
Landcare Research focuses on the sustainable management of resources. Most research relevant to agriculture and horticulture is done by the Environment and Society section. This includes research into erosion and sediment processes; hydrology and soil physics; soil biological and chemical interactions; and strategic land use. Research also looks at the impacts of global change on land-based systems (and vice versa) and how New Zealand can reduce greenhouse gas emissions as required by the Kyoto Protocol. Landcare Research has a comprehensive range of geospatial-related services, including soils, vegetation cover, land environments, feral animal populations and satellite imagery.
NIWA aims to provide a scientific basis for the sustainable management and development of New Zealand’s atmospheric, marine and freshwater systems and associated resources. The main issues relating to agriculture and horticulture are water availability and quality, and how this relates to land management.
The National Centre for Water Resources provides public information on rivers, lakes and groundwater, and predictions on their quantity and quality as affected by changes in land use. Advice is provided on minimising nutrient contamination of wetlands and ponds, and a GIS-based model, ROTAN, has been developed to predict nutrient movement into waterways. Another model, SPARROW, simulates sediment loads in rivers and predicts movement downstream. The National Centre for Aquatic Biodiversity and Biosecurity provides advice on aquatic weed management and biodiversity preservation in association with land use options.