Scholarship recipients contribute to hort’s future
13 October 2023
Last year’s 2023 postgraduate scholarship recipients, Alex Dickson and Gemma Young, have had an eventful year. In articles to be published in our November NZGrower and The Orchardist magazines, they share in detail how their research has progressed to:
- help New Zealand respond more effectively to future severe weather events
- demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of regenerative farming, and
- differentiate New Zealand’s export produce through reducing agrichemical use.
Every year Horticulture New Zealand and the New Zealand Fruitgrowers’ Charitable Trust each offer one scholarship to a postgraduate student studying in New Zealand. Applications for the 2024 academic year are now open. Find out how to apply.
Can plant diversity help orchardists to reduce pesticide use and increase production?
Gemma Young received the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust Postgraduate Scholarship in 2023 to study the influence landscape heterogeneity and plant biodiversity have on horticulture systems, focusing on avocado orchards. Gemma says well researched natural methods can help control the damage that pests cause to crops.
“I think that reducing the pesticide used in New Zealand horticulture is an important step that we need to make, not only for reducing the environmental consequences but also in order to keep this ‘clean green’ marketing image which we pride ourselves on as a country. Compared to other producers I think that is the main thing that differentiates us.
“I found an amazing group of growers who let me collect pollinator samples from their orchards and access their spray diaries and packhouse data. Through working with growers and industry members, the hard times the avocado industry is currently in has been evident. Despite these challenges, everyone I have dealt with has been really interested in my research and believes there is value in it.
“I definitely would recommend applying for this scholarship – the financial support definitely helped, but the networking opportunities provided at the conference with other students and with members of the industry was extremely valuable.”
To learn all about Gemma’s research and what inspired her to get into horticulture, see the full article in the November 2023 issue of The Orchardist.
How a vegetables research project pivoted to the post-cyclone ‘living lab’
Alex Dickson received the Horticulture New Zealand Postgraduate Scholarship in 2023 to investigate how New Zealand can capture the most environmental and economic benefit from successfully integrating regenerative farming practices into its conventional cropping systems. She was already working on the Carbon Positive project with LandWISE, but her research pivoted after Cyclone Gabrielle.
“While managing Carbon Positive remains the core purpose of my role, I became heavily involved in a project collecting baseline soil and sediment samples from across impacted parts of the North Island. My involvement has included collecting samples, coordinating sampling in other regions, data analysis and extension, and I have been one of the lead authors writing up the final report. It has been a huge, coordinated effort, and we are hoping we can continue to monitor sites over the next few years.”
She is now focusing on flood recovery and developing tools so the community is better resourced and can respond more effectively next time.
“The term ‘living lab’ has been used quite a lot, and it has been fascinating to work in that ‘lab’. Seeing the changes that have happened over the last six months has been quite extraordinary. The work has been incredibly interesting, and I am now working with Massey University to develop a study that will focus on soil recovery after Cyclone Gabrielle, with a focus on highly productive land and elite soils.
“I am immensely grateful for the HortNZ postgraduate scholarship, particularly for the opportunity to attend the Horticulture Conference in August this year.”
To learn all about Alex’s research and what inspired her to get into horticulture, see the full article in the November 2023 issue of NZGrower.
Undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships are open now for study in 2023. Find out more here.