LEARN and GRASS Award recipients

GRASS Award Recipients

LEARN Award Recipients

Dr Andre Bannink


André Bannink is a senior research scientist at Wageningen UR Livestock Research in Lelystad (The Netherlands). André’s research focuses on the development of dynamic models representing the fermentation processes in the ruminant intestine (rumen and large intestine). He has conducted his research work in close cooperation with Wageningen University since 1993 and is currently in collaboration with Wageningen coordinating a research program directed at the mitigation of methane emission in ruminants (dairy cattle mainly), involving experimental modelling, delineating trade-offs of mitigation of enteric methane and some dissemination work.  André received a GRASS award to visit the Animal Nutrition and Health group of Dr. David Pacheco at AgResearch, Palmerston North for a period of 6 weeks. The award will enable Andre and David’s team to enhance research currently being undertaken on the improvement of the quantification of enteric methane emission in sheep, on the comparison of sheep against cattle, and to develop a sheep model that can be used for NZ production conditions. The intention is to share resources in the future and collaborate together with Dr. Jan Dijkstra of Wageningen University using the experimental data already collected at AgResearch, and the modelling expertise already built up in The Netherlands.


Dr Cecile de Klein

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Dr Cecile de Klein is Principal Scientist at AgResearch, Invermay and is a leading expert in Nitrous Oxide research. Cecile was funded through a GRASS award to work with colleagues in Europe to get an in-depth knowledge on the advances in N2O mitigation in key European countries and their applicability (or otherwise) for New Zealand agriculture systems. In addition, the award was an opportunity for Cecile to work with Dutch colleagues to develop a New Zealand specific inventory framework that will identify the key parts of the inventory for which disaggregated values are required to ensure that the effect of emerging and future mitigation options and management practices can be accounted for. The exchange will enable Cecile to travel to Ireland, the UK, France and the Netherlands to develop a Global Partnership that could bring together resources from the EU Animal Change and the NZ Global Research Alliance.


Professor Hong Di

There is a keen interest worldwide in the nitrification inhibitor technology and its potential use by countries other than New Zealand.  Professor Hong Di, a soil scientist from Lincoln University is a widely respected expert in this area and has been granted a GRASS award to travel to China and work to oversee trials currently being conducted to assess the effectiveness of DCD in reducing nitrous oxide emissions.  The exchange will be an opportunity for New Zealand to provide expertise and input to the trials in China to assess the potential of using DCD as a nitrous oxide mitigation tool.

Professor Di will be based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for Environmental Sciences, in Beijing, China for ten weeks.  This is a new, exciting collaboration for both Di and New Zealand to share and exchange information on the mitigation approaches to nitrous oxide emission. The knowledge gained during the Chinese trials will enhance the research programme in New Zealand and further the understanding on the various microbial, soil and environmental factors that affect nitrous oxide emissions from the soil.


Dr Nick Hutchings

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Dr Nick Hutchings is a senior scientist at Aarhus University (Denmark) currently visiting AgResearch (Grasslands and Lincoln) on a six month exchange funded by a GRASS Award.  A modeller working on the farm-scale model FASSET (as part of the EU Animal Change project and NitroEurope EU project), Nick is in New Zealand to co-ordinate and integrate the AgResearch contribution to the Animal Change project.  The project studies the effect of climate change on livestock farming systems, the measures available to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions from such farms and the adaption measure available.  Nick will work with rumen and farm system modellers to find a simple way of incorporating the main functionality of the rumen, in a simple model that can be used at the farm scale.  Nick will spend three months at Grasslands and then three months in Lincoln.


Wei Wei Xia


Wei Wei Xia is a PhD student at the Institute of Soil Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Science in Nanjing, China.  Wei Wei's research interest is in the functional micro-organisms in the nitrification process in soils. 

While in New Zealand, Wei Wei will work with Dr Saman Bowatte and Dr Paul Newton at AgResearch in Palmerston North to investigate the functional differences between microbial activity in the peak and non-peak nitrous oxide emission periods in pasture systems using DNA-SNP technologies.  Wei Wei hopes this work will help her gain a better understanding of the microbial mechanisms underlying GHG emissions from livestock agriculture to contribute to the reduction of GHG emisions in China.


Claudia Faverin

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Claudia Faverin is a Biology Professor at National University of Mar del Plata working in the Livestock System Group at INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology) in Balcarce, Argentina. While at AgResearch, Grasslands on a LEARN Work Trainee award, Claudia will work alongside Dr Ronaldo Vibart and Dr Mark Lieffering from the Systems Modelling Team to examine the differences in greenhouse gas emissions from two contrasting beef production systems (grazing and feedlot) and quantify these in terms of animal productivity. This information will form an important basis for possible future work on the life cycle assessment of these systems which will enable other impact categories (e.g. eutrophication) to be examined. Claudia will also be involved in a number of trials assessing the effect of feeding strategies on methane emissions captured by the state-of the-art calorimetry facilities located in AgResearch Grasslands.

The LEARN work trainee programme will enable Claudia to become familiar with the modelling tools that are frequently used to assess whole-farm nutrient balance, feed flow, livestock emissions and N losses, and profitability, namely Farmax, OVERSEER, and APSIM. On her return home, Claudia will be able to adapt these tools to predict and contrast whole-farm nutrient balances and livestock emissions from pasture based and dry lot beef farming operations in Argentina for her PhD.


Dr Marcio Chiba


 Dr Marcio Chiba is a Scientist for the Soil and Environmental Research Centre, a Research Institute within the Sao Paulo State Bureau of Agriculture, Brazil. After spending many years surveying soil, Marcio took an opportunity to study the deployment of a crop-livestock integration system by farmers from Sao Paulo State. This new farming system was introduced to protect the soil from the impact of heavy rainfall on bare soils; a problem of concern in Brazil where heavy rainfall is very common during the summer months.  Marcio is visiting AgResearch at Grasslands on a LEARN Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Iris Vogeler and Rogerio Cichota to further develop models and understanding of just how much impact the crop-livestock integration system could have on Brazilian farm systems. Marcio's research will focus on the spatial and temporal variability of N losses via leaching and N2O emissions under hill country grazing by means of linking experimental observations with process based modelling and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).  Marcio will use the knowledge gained on managing highly productive pastures with low environmental impact back in Brazil to apply the concepts to grain cropping areas under no-till. 


Sandeep Kumar

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 Sandeep Kumar is a Research Associate in the highly-regarded Rumen Microbiology Group of Professor Devki Nandan Kamra at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly.  Sandeep's  research considers the effects of feed additives on ruminant methane emissions and rumen microbial diversity of domesticated and wild ruminants. The overall goal of his research is to gain a better understanding of livestock methane emissions and so be able to mitigate these whilst simultaneously improving livestock productivity.  Knowing the benefits of working with, and learning from other experts in this area - Sandeep applied for and won a LEARN fellowship. The fellowship has funded his six-month visit to AgResearch in Palmerston North where he is improving bioinformatic tools used to analyse next generation sequencing data, under the guidance of Dr Gemma Henderson and Dr Peter Janssen in the Rumen Microbiology Team. Sandeep says that the experience he gains in New Zealand will be of huge benefit to the research program at his home organisation in India. In addition, the outcomes of the research he is involved with on his fellowship will be used in ongoing methane mitigation programs funded by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.