2 June 2008 Honours recognise years of research endeavour behind agricultural 'development of the decade'
A “breakthrough based on many years of endeavour” is how Lincoln University soil scientists Professor Keith Cameron and Professor Hong Di describe the research process and invention which has contributed to their appointment as Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).
The honours, for “services to agricultural research”, recognise their work to improve the environmental sustainability of dairy farming by reducing nitrate leaching into groundwater from cow urine patches and reducing similarly sourced emissions of the “greenhouse gas” nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.
Their research breakthrough led to the development of the new technology/product called “eco-n”, which was launched in February 2004.
“Eco-n is potentially one of the major agricultural developments of this decade,” says Rodney Green, CEO of the invention's commercial developers, Ravensdown Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd.
Lincoln University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roger Field, is “delighted by the recognition of Professor Cameron and Professor Di and for this sophisticated agricultural research that they have undertaken”. He says the environmental benefits of the eco-n technology have “major implications for farmers planning for enhanced water quality management and for New Zealand's efforts to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets”.
He said the opportunity for Lincoln University scientists to work with a business partner like Ravensdown had made commercialisation possible within a short timeframe and allowed the benefits identified in the University's research to be transferred rapidly to farmers. It was a fine example of a good university-industry relationship.
Prime Minister Helen Clark, who had a personal briefing on Professor Cameron and Professor Di's research at Lincoln University last October, described the work then as having “real substance” and showing the sort of leadership the Government was looking for in the area of environmental sustainability.
Professor Cameron and Professor Di developed the technology from the nitrification inhibitor DCD (dicyandamide) and scientifically demonstrated the many environmental and production benefits of it when formulated in the eco-n product.
The work won them, and Ravensdown's General Manager Richard Christie and then Business Development Manager Ron Pellow, Canterbury's top prize for research and development contributions to agriculture/horticulture in 2005, the Agricom Significant Achievement Award. The citation noted the team's “excellent research, product development, commercialisation and technology transfer”.
Professor Keith Cameron
Professor Cameron is the Head of Lincoln University's Centre for Soil and Environmental Quality. Born in Scotland and with degrees from Aberdeen and Reading universities, Professor Cameron has been a staff member at Lincoln University since 1981. In 1991 he received a Lincoln University Excellence Award for Research Activity and in 1996 he was appointed to a personal Professorship in Soil Science. He is the co-author of a standard introductory textbook on soil science, and author or co-author of over 150 refereed publications in the scientific literature and over 60 other significant works. He is a past President of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science and was elected a Fellow of the society in 1998. He is also a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Science and a past member of the Royal Society of New Zealand's Standing Committee on Primary Production, Science and Technology. He is a former Deputy Chair of Telford Rural Polytechnic. At Lincoln University in the late 1980s he and soil science colleagues developed an underground research facility called a lysimeter laboratory and this has contributed significantly to soil science and environmental research throughout Australasia.
Professor Hong Di
Professor Di has been a staff member at Lincoln University since 1995. He completed a Master of Applied Science in Soil Science with First Class Honours at Lincoln University in 1988 and a PhD in 1991. He also holds a degree from the Agricultural University of Hebei, near Beijing, where he taught soil science.
After completing his PhD at Lincoln University he was awarded a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Soil Science and followed that with a period in Australia as a Research Fellow in the Department of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition at the University of Western Australia. He returned to Lincoln University as a Research Scientist and progressively rose through the academic ranks to Associate Professor in 2003 then Professor of Soil and Environmental Science at the end of 2004.
Professor Di is an Honorary Professor of China Agricultural University in Beijing and Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan. He was the winner of the Best Publication Medal by a Young Scientist from the Australian Society of Soil Science in 1995 and in 2000 he was the winner of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science's ML Leamy Prize for the most meritorious published contributions to soil science in New Zealand. The Leamy prize stamped him as New Zealand's top soil scientist of the year.
He was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science in 2004. He has served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Environmental Quality published in the USA. He is frequently invited as a keynote speaker at international conferences. His publications have made significant contributions to knowledge and understanding about the transformations, leaching and environmental impacts of nutrients and agrichemicals in the soil. Professor Di's “breakthrough work” in this field enabled him to develop new decision support models to predict the leaching levels of nitrate and pesticides from soil.
For the past 13 years he has been leader of Lincoln University's research on the use of nitrification inhibitors to decrease nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas (nitrous oxide) emissions in intensive grazed pasture systems, work which led to the development of the eco-n technology.
Recipients' Response (Professor Cameron and Professor Di):
“We are absolutely delighted that our research has been recognised in this way. We regard this honour as the highest recognition of the outstanding work of our whole research team at Lincoln University, which we two have had the privilege to lead. It has been a team effort, including the collaboration with Ravensdown staff, particularly General Manager Richard Christie.
“We are particularly grateful to Ravensdown, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, and Lincoln University for investing in and supporting our research programmes.”
Ian Collins, Communications Group, Lincoln University