Story: Agricultural and horticultural research

Page 5. University research

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Lincoln and Massey universities began life as centres for teaching agriculture. Each developed into universities with research programmes of national and international significance.


Lincoln School of Agriculture, linked to Canterbury College, was established in Lincoln, south of Christchurch, in 1878, with a first student intake in 1880. It became Canterbury Agricultural College in 1896, Lincoln College in 1961, and finally Lincoln University in 1990.

The early research disciplines followed traditional agriculture, with an emphasis on sheep farming and the South Island environment. Soils research investigated nutrient deficiencies in soils of the plains, hill and high country; pasture and crop research was on species that were suited to the dry east coast; and sheep research was on the breeding and management of animals that could produce well in that environment. Subsequently research began on orchard and other horticultural production, as well as agricultural economics.

In the early 2000s much of the research continued into traditional topics, including nutrition and health, soil and physical sciences, biochemistry and cell biology, microbiology, toxicology, agronomy and plant science, food science, horticulture, viticulture and oenology, environmental science, environmental management, tourism, landscape architecture and commerce.

Also at Lincoln were a number of research centres relating to additional topics such as agribusiness, computer model simulation solutions, recreation, soil, and nature conservation. The Isaac Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies was a collaborative association between Lincoln University, AgResearch, Crop and Food Research and Massey University.


Massey Agricultural College was opened in Palmerston North in March 1928. Full university status was granted in 1963 and the name was abbreviated to Massey University in 1966. Several new departments were added in the 1950s. The faculty of technology was established in 1961 and that of veterinary science in 1962. Following merger with the Palmerston North College of Education in 1996, the university was divided into four Colleges including the College of Sciences.

Early research investigated nutrient deficiencies and the science of North Island soils; nutrient runoff from farmland; soil drainage; pasture species for dairy and sheep farms; seed technology; sheep and beef production; wool production; dairy cow production and management; and dairy product manufacture, which included the building of a model dairy factory.

Around 2,000 hectares of extra land was purchased for research farms around the original property.

With the addition of the veterinary faculty, research expanded to include animal diseases and physiology. In 2007 the Hopkirk Research Institute, an animal diseases research institute in collaboration between Massey and AgResearch, was set up adjacent to the Massey Institute for Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences (IVABS).

The IVABS research programme covered animals and society; food safety and quality; emerging diseases affecting biosecurity, trade and public health; reproductive management and diseases; mycobacterial diseases; and nutritional management of pastoral animal health and production.

The Institute of Natural Resources

The Institute of Natural Resources, also within the Massey College of Sciences, had research programmes on agronomy (pastures and crops); agricultural and horticultural systems and management; horticultural science; natural resource management; ecology; plant protection; and soil and earth sciences. The Institute contained the Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre, formed in 1983, which conducts research on a wide range of soil fertility and associated environmental issues. Also within this Institute is the New Zealand Centre for Precision Agriculture, as well as the Volcanic Risk Solutions Research Centre.

How to cite this page:

Ross Galbreath, 'Agricultural and horticultural research - University research', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 June 2024)

Story by Ross Galbreath, published 24 Nov 2008