Dryland Pastures Group awarded for two decades of transformative change

03 December 2021 | News

The remarkable work of Lincoln University’s renowned Dryland Pastures Group has been honoured this week with the 2021 PGG Wrightson Significant Achievement Award in Agriculture/Horticulture.

The research group, led by Professor Derrick Moot and made up of Lincoln academics and students, was founded in 1998 with the aim of developing dryland pastoral farms that create resilience to climate change.

The group focus on quantifying the interactions between plant species, temperature and rainfall to develop robust on-farm management systems and deliver the findings to the public.

As a result, the past two decades of work has led to a New Zealand-wide transformation of rainfed agriculture, a type of farming that relies on rainfall for water.

Professor Moot said the group have created profitable and productive systems that are resilient to climate change and sympathetic to the environment.

"Our low input, legume-based systems have transformed hill and high country farming practices from Southland to Gisborne," he said.

To reach farmers, students and the wider public with their findings, the group have published their science in more than 150 peer-reviewed papers over the past decade and packaged it on their website in the form of videos, fact sheets, presentations and detailed case studies.

"We use these in diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and they have international reach promoting legume-based pasture systems to large parts of Australia and modified lucerne grazing methods in Chile and Argentina," Professor Moot said.

The group are currently engaged in providing their science to the $8.1m Hill Country Futures Programme, which focuses on future-proofing the profitability, sustainability and wellbeing of New Zealand’s hill country farmers, their systems, the environment and rural communities. The programme, run through Beef + Lamb NZ, is supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, PGG Wrightson Seeds and Seed Force Ltd.

The group are also developing a national database, called AgYields, that makes historic, current and future pasture and crop yields available to the public.

Professor Moot said he was thrilled that the group had received the award from NZIAHS.

"I am delighted for the team and the people who have contributed to it over the last couple of decades, including many undergraduate and postgraduate students, overseas interns and the farmers who have been willing and able to adopt our science on-farm.

"It is very rewarding to be engaged in research that actually gets implemented to make a difference and address the big issues of the day – land use change, climate change and social and environmental resilience."

The Significant Achievement Award is presented annually by the Canterbury Section of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science.

It is presented to the person or group that has made the most significant recent contributions to the advancement of agriculture or horticulture in research, technology, product development, technology transfer, production, processing or marketing.

PHOTO: The Dryland Pastures Group with their award. Professor Moot was unable to attend the awards ceremony, as he was returning from a trip that involved giving lucerne advice to Taupo dairy, sheep and beef farmers to assist with their on-farm practices.