PhD in Plant science, Plant nutrition in New Zealand 2015

Kiwifruit is a major export earner (ca NZ$1b) for New Zealand. Since its discovery in 2008, Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa), a bacterial kiwifruit vine disease, has had a major impact across the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.A new Gold kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis Planch) variety (Gold3 which is marketed as Zespri Sungold) is a more Psa tolerant variety and has been successfully introduced. Gold3 is currently going through a phase of rapid establishment as new plantings start to crop. The total volumes of premium Gold3 kiwifruit this season is expected to reach pre-Psa levels and orchard values back to pre-Psa prices, and forecasts indicate that Zespri is well on track to selling more than 50 million trays of Gold3 in 2018.

This PhD project will form the basis to optimise nutritional inputs for Gold3 with the goals of improving sustainable productivity and managing vigour with cost-effective inputs. Different kiwifruit varieties have different nutritional requirements and therefore there will be a need for cultivar-specific nutritional programmes. This PhD project will develop the basis for a best practice nutritional inputs programme for the variety Gold3 that takes into consideration vine productivity (yield and fruit quality), environmental impacts and cost efficiency. This project will be linked and interact with a second PhD project which will focus on storage characteristics and fruit nutritional aspects.

Field trials will be conducted in two production areas: (a) Bay of Plenty, the largest kiwifruit growing region in NZ and the primary site/focus of the project; (b) Hawkes Bay, a regional kiwifruit producing area, along (c) controlled trial work in research orchards/greenhouses at the Fruit Crops Unit at Massey University in Palmerston North. Significant time is budgeted within targeted orchards in the Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay. In addition, there will be opportunities to align and validate treatments developed in this project with Gold3 experiments in Zespri’s research orchards in Italy, and possible site-visits are foreseen in year 2 or 3 of the project.

This project is a 3-year research project and is fully sponsored by Zespri ( An active engagement with Zespri’s Research Innovation Steering Group is expected with results to be presented periodically to grower groups and industry periodicals (e.g. Kiwifruit Journal), alongside (other) scientific outputs.

Candidates with a strong background in Plant Science, including crop/plant physiology and/or plant nutrition and/or plant biochemistry, are encouraged to apply.

The studentship includes a NZ$25k tax-free stipend per year, plus payment of Massey PhD tuition fees. Funding eligibility includes overseas candidates.

The project will be supported by commercial and research orchards, plant growth & laboratory facilities, with supervision/training provided, within the Joint Graduate School of Horticulture and Food Enterprise, and is based at the Institute of Agriculture & Environment (IAE), Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ (more info:


Motivated candidates should email a 2-sided CV, including the name of two academic referees, and also a one-page covering letter, which should discuss their reasons for applying, to Dr. Huub by 7 August 2015

Candidates will also need to meet the requirements for entry to PhD study at Massey University (more info: ).

Informal inquiries encouraged and welcome to Huub Kerckhoffs

Massey University is a leading New Zealand University for postgraduate study, and is a QS-ranked top university in the world for Agriculture.

Palmerston North is a vibrant and friendly student city, situated in the North Island’s rural heartland with great outdoor options and within easy driving distance of beaches, mountains and other cities.

Hopkirk Research Institute PhD Scholarship

The Ag Research Infectious Diseases Team in the Hopkirk Research Institute in Palmerston North conducts research aimed at discovering and characterizing novel vaccines for veterinary use, as well as operating a specialized diagnostic laboratory which is IANZ accredited to ISO17025.

We are seeking a PhD student to develop a vaccine to combat sheep pneumonia. Pneumonia and pleurisy in sheep causes a significant loss in lost productivity for sheep industry in New Zealand. Mycoplasma is one of the important pathogens for the disease. Using microbiological, molecular biology and immunological tools, the student will work towards the identification of novel vaccine components. The team includes scientists and laboratory technicians skilled in microbiology, virology, immunology, molecular biology and use of in vivo animal models.

Candidates will have a suitable degree preferably in a discipline relevant to microbiology, molecular biology or immunology. Prior experience in protein analysis, bioinformatics and handling of microorganisms would be advantageous.

The three year studentship offers an annual stipend ($30,000) and covers university fees and operating costs. It is important that the candidate is able to fulfill the requirements for initial and continued enrolment in a PhD programme at Massey University.

AgResearch is one of New Zealand’s leading research organizations. We work for the benefit of New Zealand, collaborating closely with industry partners to achieve the outcomes they need. AgResearch’s purpose is to enhance the value, productivity and profitability of New Zealand’s pastoral, agri-food and agri-technology sector value chains to contribute to economic growth and beneficial environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand.

 Further details can be obtained from:

 Dr Tao Zheng, Senior Scientist, Hopkirk Research Institute.



Associate Professor Alan Murray, Hopkirk Research Institute.


Institute of Agriculture & Environment (IAE)
Massey University
Palmerston North, New Zealand