A changing of the guard at the annual meeting of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science this month has resulted in my election as President. My predecessor, Professor Jon Hickford, continues to serve the Institute as the Immediate Past President.
To introduce myself briefly, I am Head of the School of Food and Advanced Technology at Massey University. My discipline is postharvest physiology, the science behind our global trade in fresh products. I gained my D.Phil. in plant physiology (on boron deficiency) from the University of Oxford and worked for many years at Plant & Food Research before joining Massey in 2009.
As Head of School I take a strong interest in the food ‘end’ of our primary industries. We are an unusual country in the OECD, with a high proportion of our exports derived from the primary sector. Achieving premium prices for premium quality products that meet consumer demand in the countries where they are buying our products is of huge importance to us. Increasingly, those affluent consumers around the world demand that our products not only meet their expectations in terms of appearance, flavour, safety and so on; but also in terms of their sustainability ‘credentials’. Fortunately we are also globally recognised for our integrity, so when we say something has been produced ‘organically’ or is ‘residue-free’, there is a logical assumption that we have regulatory and testing regimes in place to back up those claims.
As we all know, this journey towards truly sustainable production of high-quality products requires a lot of high-tech science and engineering, both on farm and beyond the farm gate. I am proud to be part of our industry and, for the next two years, to take the helm of our own science organisation. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to serve you as the Institute’s President.
Bracing for change
In his annual President’s report to the annual general meeting of the Institute, Professor Hickford noted it has been a year of uncertainty in the community, because of COVID-19, and has been a year of uncertainty in the New Zealand science system.
Public sector research funding remains at inadequate levels and well below the OECD average. Meantime Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods is strongly signalling a major re-organisation of the Crown Research Institutes, something first hinted at back in 2017. We wait expectantly for details.
One thing is sure: when changes are announced, the whole science funding system will be affected.
Among other issues highlighted by Jon:
Institutions are charging varying and at times large over-heads on post-doctoral and other early career positions. The revenue is not lifting early career salaries and science careers are becoming increasingly unattractive.
Investment in Research and Development must not just be stable; it also must be removed from populist political influence.
The uptake of regenerative agriculture seems to be influenced by cultural cringe and strong anti-science thinking. New Zealand should forge its own science-based path forward in agriculture and horticulture
The NZIAHS takes much pleasure in announcing these awards:
Honorary Life Member – Dr Jill Stanley
Jill StanleyJill has been a member of NZIAHS since the start of her professional career and has contributed to the Institute’s work in many ways in a highly professional manner, including her term as President. She has also made significant contributions to the International Society for Horticultural Science.
She has been the Science Group Leader for the Plant & Food Research Fruit Crops Physiology programme since 2016. Before that she was a team leader in the same programme.
Her contributions to NZIAHS have been exemplary – in 1999 she was the President of NZSHS before the merger with NZIAS. Jill joined the NZIAHS Council in 2010 and took up Council positions as Secretary in 2012, Vice-President in 2015, President in 2017 and finally as Immediate Past President.
Jill has served the International Society for Horticultural Science since 1998 as the New Zealand representative on the Council of the ISHS; from 2009-2016 Vice-President (Scientific) of the Organising Committee of the IHC 2014 in Brisbane; 2014-2018 Board member (Secretary) of the ISHS; 2018-present Vice-President of the ISHS (Chair of the ISHS Executive Committee
NZIAHS Fellowship – Dr Brent Clothier
Brent is a Principal Scientist at Plant & Food Research, an Adjunct Professor at Massey University, Lincoln University and China Agricultural University, and a Fellow – and now President – of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
He has made a significant contribution to horticultural and agricultural science over the 46 years of his career.
He is a world-leading soil and water scientist whose work has enhanced our understanding of the natural capital that the environment provides to grow our crops, enabling better informed land-use decisions.
Brent’s work on water foot printing, soil science and climate change has prepared New Zealand’s primary production systems for tomorrow’s challenges.
He was elected President of the Royal Society in November 2019.
Brent was awarded the NZAHS’s Sir Arthur Ward Trophy in 2013 for communication of agricultural and horticultural science. He has a vast range of professional distinctions and memberships with 233 peer reviewed journal articles: 39 Books, book chapters, books edited: and 283 conference proceedings.
NZIAHS Jubilee Medal – Dr Tony Conner
Tony’s outstanding science career of more than 40 years in New Zealand began as a tutor in the Horticulture Department at Lincoln College after he graduated with a BSc (Hons) from University of Canterbury, and he worked for DSIR Research at Lincoln after completing a PhD in genetics at the University of California, Davis.
He joined Crop & Food Research after the CRIs were established, transferred to Plant & Food Research after the Crop & Food/HortResearch, merger, and in 2011 took up a science management role in AgResearch.
His research has focused on biotechnology and genetics for the improvement of plants, applying a wide range of tools to the improvement of vegetables, arable crops, ornamental plants and forage species.
Tony’s major contributions to plant science have involved advances in genetic modification, including the use of Agrobacterium-mediated transformation in monocotyledonous plants (asparagus and onions) and the first field trials of transgenic plants in the Southern hemisphere.
He was elected a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2003, was awarded the Sir Arthur Ward Communications Trophy from the NZIAHS, and won an award for science communication from the New Zealand Association of Scientists.
He has authored 190 peer-reviewed scientific publications which are recorded in Google Scholar as being cited 5271 times with an h-index of 36, a g-index of 66, and an i10 of 101 (May 2020).
He has been an active member of the NZIAHS for over 30 years, including the Canterbury Branch Committee 2009-2012.
New Council Members
Dr Melanie Davidson
Research Scientist at Plant & Food Research, Lincoln
Professor Rainer Hofmann
Plant Biology Department, Lincoln University