A new Lincoln University initiative is responding to the need for new ways of using our land more productively while ensuring New Zealand's future prosperity and enhancing lives.

The initiative — Designing Future Productive Landscapes — is a multi-disciplinary approach, which could span the university as it seeks to find alternatives to "current and narrow models of land-use options and practices".

These land-use options and practices limit not only sustainability and the resilience of landscapes and the agroecosystems embedded within them, but also constrain regeneration of land, environment and culture.

Dione Payne. Photo / Supplied
Dione Payne. Photo / Supplied

The initiative follows the recommendations of last year's Transformation Board Report urging Lincoln to deliver positive changes in land, food and ecosystems.

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It will involve students working in a living laboratory, incubating ideas in the classroom that can be 'hatched' in the field.

The initiative involves academics from agricultural, landscape and Maori perspectives, and is the first of three to be announced this year.

Its comprehensive research programme involves projects in hill country, dryland and irrigated landscapes.

Initiative lead, Professor Pablo Gregorini, said production landscapes — te taiao — underpin cultures and prosperity of societies worldwide.

However, a number of transformations and pressures are affecting landscapes here and around the world, diminishing biodiversity, reducing water and air quality, and accelerating loss of soil and plant biomass.

"Given New Zealand's economic reliance on food agricultural production and provenance, our global brand, prosperity and well-being are at risk.

"We want to create adaptive agroecosystems to re-connect our landscape, our livestock (agriculture) and ourselves, by restoring broken linkages among plants, herbivores and humans with diets that nourish and satiate, as well as heal our planet," Professor Gregorini said.

"Our objective demands a multi-disciplinary response, integrating skills and knowledge across farming systems, ecology, landscape design, social science and other disciplines."
Some of the areas the initiative could address include:

• reshaping and reimagining Maori productive landscapes that will support and sustain the mauri of te taiao while continuing to grow the Maori economy;

• encouraging regional councils to develop approaches for identifying and designing distinctive ways to increase a landscape's full range of productivity;

• helping Government agencies to establish new baselines and benchmarks for monitoring landscape value and productivity.

Potentially, the initiative could involve all staff across the entire disciplinary range at Lincoln University.

Key collaborators could involve CRIs and other universities, in New Zealand and internationally, and ideas could be trialled on some of the university's farms.

Initiative team member, Associate Professor Mick Abbott, said his main concern lay with how we can design future landscapes that better integrate the multiple ways we use and protect land for the benefit of ourselves and the environment.

Team member, Lincoln University director Kaiarahi Maori, Dr Dione Payne, said an important aspect was protecting and sustaining the mauri of te taiao.

Lincoln University Chancellor Steve Smith said Lincoln University is uniquely placed to lead this new initiative.

"In addition to the multi-disciplinary team, our network of farms allows us to integrate research across a variety of landscapes," he said.