Jack Pronger is one of two first-year PhD candidates to be awarded a 2014 Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Waikato.
Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship
The scholarship adds a one-off payment of $5000 to Jack’s Doctoral Scholarship from Waikato. His primary funding comes from the Flower Doctoral Fellowship in Agribusiness, worth $30,000 a year for three years.
Jack says it was an unexpected honour to receive the Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship.
“It’s always nice to receive recognition for the hard work that goes into reaching this level of study. The notification that I had received the scholarship was also very timely as it came a few days prior to my confirmed enrolment presentation and proposal - a reasonably stressful time period - and the news definitely gave me a boost just when needed. Clearly the extra funds are also greatly appreciated and will relieve some of the financial pressure for me and my young family.”
Improving pastoral drought resilience
Jack hopes his current research project will contribute to an improvement in pastoral drought resilience. His research focuses on identifying approaches to mitigating the effects of drought by using more diverse mixes of pasture species - research that could have a significant impact on farm production. The research is being supervised by Professor Louis Schipper and Dr Dave Campbell from the School of Science.
“I’d also like to acknowledge the great support I have received from many of the academics here in the School of Science and especially our team at WaiBER (Waikato Biogeochemistry and Ecohydrology Research),” he says.
Jack’s PhD will look at differences in seasonal water use between mixed sward pasture systems (a combination of different grass, legume and herb species) and ryegrass/clover pasture systems under dairy grazing.
“The current knowledge of paddock-scale water use and water uptake efficiency is pretty limited,” he says. “To cope with the increasing incidence of drought, farmers need pasture species that can access water deeper in the soil, and/or reduce paddock-scale water use while maintaining agronomic production.”
He says there’s been little research into paddock-scale water uptake of managed pasture systems in New Zealand, a gap he feels is worth addressing. With the economics of farming practices changing, and the ongoing issue of climate change, identifying ways to combat the effects of drought is more important than ever.
The other recipient of the Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship is Mark Will. Recipients of these scholarships are selected based on grade-point average and other factors.