Soil, Water and Land Management

soil-land-research.jpg We advance understanding of the management of soil, water and land, to enable sustainable production and conservation of natural resources within urban and rural environments.

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

Our expertise

Nutrient management and soil fertility research

We undertake teaching and research on soils, fertilisers and environmental issues in agriculture, horticulture and forestry. We provide practical solutions for issues in our primary production sectors, and are actively involved in information transfer through the Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre.

Contact Prof Mike HedleyLance CurrieDr James HanlyDr Dave Horne


Land use and evaluation

We assess land for various uses through soil mapping and characterisation. Land is evaluated through qualitative and quantitative assessment of soils and the landscapes they cover. Land evaluation is valuable for production, sustainability, environmental issues and biodiversity.

Contact Dr Alan Palmer


Water resources and quality

Our team studies soil-water-plant interactions, soil-water dynamics, nutrient runoff, surface and ground water hydrology, and soil-water management including irrigation and drainage systems. We identify processes to attenuate pollutants moving from agricultural landscapes to water.

Contact Dr Ranvir Singh


Soil Organic Matter and Carbon sequestration Expert Group at Massey University

Our group of researchers forms part of the Soils and Earth Sciences Group of Massey University and studies the biogeochemical processes that determine soil organic matter turnover. Soil organic matter is the largest terrestrial carbon pool and the major source of nitrogen for plant growth. We work with many different ecosystem models and at different magnitudes ranging from microscopic to global scales on the study of the carbon cycle. We are committed to developing new ways in advancing the studies of soil organic matter with the use of advanced techniques such as pyrolysis-GC/MS; as well as more traditional approaches.

By knowing the mechanisms by which organic matter accumulates/decomposes in mineral soils we can provide better predictions about the response of soil organic matter to changes in management practices, land-use and practices. Few scientists are willing to cross the border of their own field. Our group offers an integrated approach of studying organic matter combining the knowledge of different scientific disciplines. The group has also expertise in biochar – charcoal to be used as soil amendment to improve soil functions and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Biochar holds carbon and may boost food security. The New Zealand Biochar Research Centre researches the production of biochar for application to agricultural and forest soils. The Research Centre is a joint venture with the School of Advanced Engineering and Technology.

Our current research projects include the following (i) predicting the soil carbon stabilisation capacity of grassland soils, (ii) the use of biochar to decrease nitrous oxide emissions from soil, (iii) the use of biochar to trigger mycorrhizal growth and phosphorus uptake, (iv) the influence of soil organic matter quantity and quality on cadmium mobilisation in New Zealand soils, and (v) influence of soil organic matter quantity and quality on the loss of dissolved organic carbon and the implications in denitrification.

Contact A/Prof Marta Camps Arbestain


Soil contamination and rehabilitation

Modern and historic land use often has a detrimental effect on soil health. Contamination occurs through loading inorganic elements and organic compounds to the soil above a safe rate. We have expertise in assessing environmental risk, designing mitigation strategies, and phytoremediation, where living plants are used to stabilise, break down, or remove contaminants in the soil.

Contact Dr Chris Anderson or A/Prof Bob Stewart


From gold to green

The Waihi Gold Mining Company (now Newmont Waihi Gold) needed a sustainable plant-growth media to use on waste rock and tailings from its mine at Martha Hill, Waihi, in order to reclaim the land. The company also wanted to revegetate the steep, pyritic pit walls in the opencast mine itself. Massey’s Associate Professor Bob Stewart worked with Dr Paul Gregg (former Head of Soil Science at Massey) to provide a reclamation policy for a mining licence application, and designed, specified, monitored and audited operating conditions for the reclamation. This work contributed to the company getting its mining licence. Results of the scientific field and laboratory trials were used to formulate company rehabilitation guidelines and inform rehabilitation operating procedures. A/Prof Stewart continues to advise on annual fertiliser strategy and review the state of revegetation at the mine site.

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