Call to push careers in horticulture

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:44 31/07/2013
Nick
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ
NICK ROSKRUGE: "There are great job opportunities for our under-graduates, so most leave university when they have their degree and go to a job."

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Too few students are taking careers in horticulture and agriculture which offer good career options, says Massey University lecturer Dr Nick Roskruge.

He said while Massey University had eight post-graduate horticulture students, only two were from New Zealand, the others were Chinese, a Guatemalan and one from the Pacific Islands.

"There are great job opportunities for our under-graduates, so most leave university when they have their degree and go to a job."

He said they may come back later and do a post-graduate qualification, but unlike many graduates, they could get good jobs in the industry.

"Areas like kiwifruit, large horticultural operations, apple packhouses, that sort of thing - they all want technical expertise and they're in demand."

Roskruge said banks, fertiliser companies, and chemical suppliers also wanted graduates.

"They'll all get jobs, and the primary industry carries this country. Not just the growers or farmers, but all the support people as well. But there is a shortage of people doing these degrees."

He said schools needed to better promote agriculture and horticulture as career opportunities.

Roskruge, the college of sciences Kaiarahi Maori and natural resources senior lecturer at Massey, has just returned from the United States where he was hosted by Cornell University in upstate New York after he was awarded a Fulbright Travel Scholarship, Nga pae o te maramatanga.

"I was based at Cornell, but I travelled around and also gave a presentation at the Society Ethnobotany annual conference at Denton in Texas."

Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants.

Roskruge said the Fulbright Scholarship was based on the spread from the Americas of traditional Maori basic foods such as sweet potato (kumara) and potato (taewa).

He said both crops originated in the Andean region of the South American continent and are believed to have made their way across the ocean centuries ago as cargo with human movement, and/or possibly following tides and currents in the Pacific Ocean.

Roskruge said his post-doctoral study had been based on that, and he was able to give his lecture on it.

"And it was received with enthusiasm. There is always an interest - people want to know more about where the food they are growing might have come from."

Roskruge said he went to the huge growing areas of Iowa and Illinois where farmers and growers have thousands of hectares planted.

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"The insurers say when growers should plant. If they don't, they can't get insurance."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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