‘Dr Dirt’ honoured for pastoral farming contribution

Dr Ants Roberts, nick-named ‘Dr Dirt’ by his peers, has been awarded the Ray Brougham Trophy

Prominent soil scientist Dr Ants Roberts, Ravensdown chief scientific officer, has been awarded the Ray Brougham Trophy in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the New Zealand pastoral farming sector.

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Nick-named ‘Dr Dirt’ by his peers, Dr Ants was recognised recently at the annual Grasslands Conference for his excellence in agricultural soil science and service to the industry over his 40 years of practice.

"I’m deeply humbled to be recognised among my peers in this way for effectively doing something that I love and am passionate about. A lot of very worthy recipients have gone before me, so I feel very honoured and pleased to be recognised," says Dr Ants.

John Caradus, chair of the NZ Grassland Trust, says each year, the Trust awards the Ray Brougham Trophy to a person associated with the pastoral farming industries, who has made an outstanding national contribution over their working career.

"Ants has developed through his working career an excellent profile that allows him to represent the grassland community effectively on issues related to fertiliser, soil, and environment. He was a worthy recipient of the Trophy," John says.

With a career spanning four decades, Dr Ants has contributed to more than 65 referred scientific journals and conference papers, 70 scientific and extension papers, five book chapters and four extension booklets, and eight educational YouTube videos.

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"If I had to compress 40 years into one highlight, I’d say the best part of my career has been meeting the farmers of New Zealand on their farms and seeing how, and if, I can help them. That’s what gets me up in the morning – my why," Dr Ants says.

Dr Ants, who has a BAgSci (1st Class Honours) and PhD from Massey and is a Fellow of the New Zealand Soil Science Society, says his role as a soil scientist in agriculture is to translate the science of soil fertility into words and actions that farmers can take on-board and actually institute on farms, enabling smarter farming for a better New Zealand.

"Making soil fertility science as simple to understand and as effective as possible is where I have concentrated my efforts. If it is not done with the end user in mind then it renders less useful.

"The next frontier for me is to ensure that our pastoral farmers can continue to have a sustainable and economically successful business, producing high-quality food from our soils in a nutrient limited world."

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