Newsletter Digest: Soil carbon and emissions, agri-tech at Fieldays and the Qantas Media Awards


Soil carbon and cutting emissions

Did you know that there’s more carbon in the dirt beneath our feet than in the air above our heads?

Soils hold at least twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, and they also store more carbon than the world’s forests and other vegetation combined.

Although soil carbon has been largely ignored in the public discussion of carbon credits and emissions trading, scientists say it shouldn’t be overlooked. Efforts to increase soil carbon can not only reduce emissions, but improve soil quality and agricultural production as well.

In a media background briefing next week, scientists from the newly-launched New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre will answer:

  • What is soil carbon?
  • What is its relationship to soil health and agricultural productivity?
  • What kind of natural variations exist across different landscapes?
  • How do human activities affect soil carbon?
  • What is New Zealand’s unique situation?
  • Why should we care about it?
  • What role is soil carbon likely to play in relation to emissions trading schemes in different parts of the world?

SMC online media briefing: 10:30 a.m. Thurs 24 June

Registered journalists will receive log-in details on Monday. For further details contact the SMC on 04 499 5476 or

Agri-tech in spotlight at Fieldays

An automatic sheep-sorter, a top young inventor, and volcanic fallout‘s impact on soil and animal health are just a few of the research highlights on show at Fieldays.

Benefits from long-term agricultural research – including more nutritious grass, targeted genetic improvements in sheep and cattle from DNA sequencing, and improved shelf-life for meat cuts – feature in a science review published by AgResearch this week. The review aims to pay due credit to science that multiple generations of researchers have seen through to completion.

Earlier in the week, AgResearch highlighted its ongoing genetic research into white clover, an important pasture crop. A genetically engineered clover will offer increased protein to livestock and reduce methane emissions, by switching on a gene to concentrate tannins in the plant’s leaves. Field trials will be carried out overseas due to the relative difficulty of gaining approval in New Zealand.

Environment coverage scoops prizes

Stories on subjects from the dumping of toxic chemicals through to genetic discoveries picked up awards in the science and environment category at last Friday’s Qantas Media Awards event in Auckland.

The full list of winners outlines an impressive collection of stories completed by fledgling journalists as well as veteran writers. In the science and environment section a strong theme was uncovering evidence of environmental contamination.

Junior newspaper reporter – Science and Environment
Kirsty Johnston – Taranaki Daily News

Senior newspaper reporter – Science & Environment
Marty Sharpe – The Dominion Post

Junior newspaper feature – Science and Environment
Charles Anderson – The Nelson Mail

Senior newspaper feature – Science and Environment
John McCrone – The Press

Senior magazine feature writer – Science and Environment
Donna Chisholm – North & South

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners across all sections, but particularly those turning out award winning science-related stories!