Agronomy Research

agronomy-collage.jpg The agronomy group researches the plant components of production systems. This encompasses all aspects of crop, pasture, agroforestry and turf science including industry practice and social factors. We seek to put science into best practice, to optimise human benefits and minimise environmental footprints. We have strong national and international collaborative networks and work closely with colleagues specialising in farm systems, horticulture, including weed and seed sciences, soil and earth sciences, and husbandry of Māori traditional crops

Our expertise


Ecophysiology is the application of science to determine what makes a better plant. This may be an “environment-friendly” plant that requires less fertiliser N, a forage with superior herbage quality to deliver faster animal weight gain, a turf grass that stays green in summer yet consumes less water, or a manuka plant with increased levels of the antibacterial UMF compound.

Crop and pasture husbandry

Crop and pasture husbandry is an important determinant of both yield and environmental impact of agricultural operations. We research the grazing management requirements of forage grasses, legumes and forage herbs, especially plantain and chicory, to provide the pastoral industries with a wider choice of forage solutions in different farming systems and environments.

Pasture and forage cultivar evaluation

Our work with major seed companies in pre- and post-release evaluations of their new forage varieties keeps us informed about the performance attributes of new varieties coming onto the market.

Crop and pasture production and practice

We study technical details of plant production systems, including energy flows from plant to product, or plant to grazing animal to product, to maximise output. Ongoing performance improvement in the land-based industries from such research is critical to its future survival.

Plant conservation

We participate in international ex-situ conservation programmes to record and conserve cultivated plant species and related wild plants through seed banks, living plants in botanic gardens, and plant collections.


Our research focus is trees on farms, particularly the interactions between trees, pastures and livestock in agroforestry systems. We also research the use of trees for erosion control, forage, wood production, nutrient management, landscape enhancement and manuka honey production.

Seed science and technology

Our research focuses on seed quality, including germination, dormancy, coating technologies and storage, with a focus on regulating and improving post-harvest seed quality.

For more information about our research activity, select individual researchers' names below.


Smart grass growth

When Nufarm introduced its new pasture growth-promoting product Progibb SG (“Smart Grass”), with a recommended application rate of just 8g per hectare, farmers had questions about its efficacy. The Fertiliser Manufacturers Research Association commissioned Massey to review the evidence.

The active ingredient in Progibb SG is the plant hormone gibberllic acid (GA). Fifty historic papers testing pasture responses to GA agreed it worked. However, these trials used rates of 75g – 350g per hectare, which made GA uneconomical.

Massey student Wayne Hofmann carried out a trial with lower GA application rates at Massey’s No.3 Dairy Farm, which gave responses similar to those reported by Nufarm.

We found that the lower application rate, combined with recent price reductions for GA from China, makes Progibb SG an economical and effective pasture growth stimulant. 

Massey Professor Tony Parsons investigated the mechanisms of grass response to GA, and found a greater response in winter and with nitrogen fertiliser application. This work exposes new prospects for sustained increases in plant growth.

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