Position: Senior scientist, Field: Soil scientist, Organisation: Land and Environment group, AgResearch, Invermay, Mosgiel.

Dr Ross Monaghan is a senior scientist for the Land and Environment Group at AgResearch, Invermay. His current research involves measuring and modelling nitrogen cycling in grazed dairy systems and understanding the impacts of nitrogen losses to the wider environment.

Ross is interested in developing farm systems and management practices that can deliver greater profitability to our farmers and reduce losses of contaminants to the environment. He also has an interest in losses of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide.

Ross realises New Zealand’s prosperity is heavily reliant on our ability to efficiently produce food that is seen to be safe and produced in a sustainable manner. He endeavours to help develop farming methods that allow for farming intensification to occur but without the associated increases in contaminant losses to the environment.

Your country needs you: New Zealand has a huge opportunity to grow our prosperity from our land-based industries if we can do so sustainably and prove to our customers and community that our soil and water resources are being protected and/or improved.

Ross first developed a keen interest in agriculture at high school. He had a very enthusiastic teacher who made clear the relevance of biology, chemistry and physics and how they integrate to provide a sound understanding of the knowledge required to underpin our modern farming systems. His interest in farming broadened whilst studying for his B Agric Sci (Hons) degree at Lincoln University to include an understanding of the potential environmental impacts of farming practices. This knowledge was strengthened as he undertook his PhD in soil science, based at Reading University in the UK. After a 3-year postdoctoral position at Reading, he returned to New Zealand to take up his current role at AgResearch.

Ross now uses his knowledge to assist farmers and stakeholders to develop farming methods and policy guidelines that can reduce nitrogen losses. He has been closely involved in research undertaken within the national Best Practice Dairy Catchments Study, an industry-led initiative that benchmarked soil and water quality in five contrasting catchments located in the country’s key dairy regions. He has also been involved in a wide range of dairy industry-funded research projects that seek to develop on-farm mitigation practices, such as improved effluent management systems and nitrification inhibitors, which allow for profitable dairy farming whilst meeting regionally based targets for water quality.

Ross enjoys travelling and meeting people – something that a career in science encourages (such as conferences and field days). The nature of his work means that he has a very diverse work routine – a nice mixture of office-based and field-based work and interaction with a wide range of stakeholder groups.

Ross also enjoys many land/water activities such as fishing, tramping, gardening and riparian planting.

This article is based on information current in 2013.

    Published 30 July 2013