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PhD research looks to combat soil water shortage on farms
As New Zealand's farms continue to face problems associated with periodic droughts, University of Waikato PhD student Jack Pronger is conducting research that might yield real results.
He's focusing on identifying approaches to increasing drought resilience by using more diverse mixes of pasture species on unirrigated farms.
Jack is comparing seasonal water use of mixed-sward pasture systems, which are a combination of different grass, legume and herb species, to traditional ryegrass and clover pasture systems under dairy grazing.
"To cope with the increasing incidence of drought, farmers need pasture species that can access water deeper in the soil or use water more efficiently," Jack says.
So far, there's been little research into paddock-scale water uptake of managed pasture systems in New Zealand – a gap Jack feels needs addressing.
Jack's research is supervised by soil and water experts Professor Louis Schipper and Dr Dave Campbell. He's also the recipient of a prestigious Flower Fellowship worth $30,000 a year for three years, and was awarded a Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship in 2014.