The New Zealand National Fieldays Society funds the university’s NZ National Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship worth $22,000. Each student has received a half share of the scholarship.
Masters student Nadia Laubscher has been awarded the scholarship to help her study why “flipped” soils are better for pasture production than undisturbed soils.
She is supported by Dairy NZ and working under the supervision of the university’s Dr Megan Balks and Professor David Lowe, analysing the moisture retention of flipped soils and neighbouring control areas in the Galatea basin – an area in the southeast Bay of Plenty notorious for succumbing to drought.
“The soil in the Galatea basin is really drought prone in summer. Farmers there rely on the use of irrigation, bringing in feed or reducing stocking rates – all things not ideal for farmers,” Laubscher said.
Gaining an understanding of how soil flipping enhances the soil characteristics might provide farmers with an innovative way to improve efficiency of moisture use for pasture production during the dry periods. Soil flipping involves mechanically digging into the top 1-2m of soil and tipping it end over end, mixing the different layers of soil. The underlying pumice layers are broken up in the process and buried soil that contains more clay and nutrients is brought to the surface – effectively making a modified soil.
PhD student Talia Hicks is working with Dr Johan Verbeek on decolouring bloodmeal bioplastic and the complications this has on the manufacturing process.
“I’m looking at what happens when you bleach the bloodmeal feedstock used to produce bioplastic. When you bleach something you end up with structural changes to the product, I’m looking at what changes do happen and how this changes the properties of the bioplastic.”
Fieldays takes place on June 12-15 June at Mystery Creek near Hamilton.