The Application of Science and Research in New Zealand
While Science continues to build up a storehouse of new information ready to be drawn upon when occasion demands, the question now is arising more prominently, as to what use is being made by industry of the output of science, to improve national prosperity. This perhaps indicates some misgivings. Is science failing for some reason? Is industry unresponsive? Is there some gap between the laboratory and the factory or the farm that should be bridged? If so, what sort of bridge is required and who should construct it?
The questions are quite appropriate and it is good for scientists and industrialists to review the position. Science and the scientist have intruded deeply into industry in the past half century and this movement shows no signs of abatement. Science has produced numerous new industries; it is playing a role of radical and increasing importance in many old ones. A profession of research workers and industrial scientists has come into existence. Large sums of money are devoted to research and science annually. The questions arise, Is such justified? Are scientists producing the results? Are the results going to industry? Is industry using them for the national welfare?
Bearing in mind that this Royal Society of N.Z. was responsible for keeping the torch of science lighted in N.Z. since 1867 and provided the foundations upon which N.Z. science of today is built, its annual meeting and its Presidential Address provides a suitable occasion for a review of the applications of science in the Dominion.
An Appraisal of the Extent of Scientific Effort in N.Z.
Some measure of the extent and nature of scientific effort in New Zealand may be obtained in very general terms by examining the number engaged, the facilities and funds provided for purposes of science.
In Government Departments there are some 600 undertaking scientific work. The science staffs of the six University Colleges number at least 220 and this is perhaps an under-estimate as it does not include some of the staff in the faculties of Engineering and Medicine. Private scientific institutions and various public authorities employ 80. Eighty-six industrial firms have a total staff of 137 scientists. In the Education service there are some 340 teachers of science in schools of secondary grade. Seventeen scientists are employed in Museums. This amounts to a total of some 1350 persons actively engaged in the teaching of science, the provision of scientific service and the conduct of research. The figure is on the conservative side.
The facilities available are very difficult to assess. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has some 40 laboratories and field stations, the Department of Agriculture 10, Cawthron Institute 1, Industrial Research Associations 5, Museums 4, and it is reasonable to expect that the eighty-six industrial firms employing scientists each maintain at least one laboratory. A
very approximate figure then would indicate that there are (without taking account of University, College and Secondary school laboratory and field station facilities), at least one hundred and forty laboratories and field stations in the Dominion equipped for scientific purposes.
The funds set aside by the Government annually for scientific purposes in the Departments of Scientific and Industrial Research, Agriculture, Marine, Internal Affairs, Forestry and Air at present is estimated to be of the order £1,750,000–£2,000,000 annually. To this must, of course, be added the expenditure on scientific education and the outlay made by all other organizations mentioned earlier which have scientific interests.
A very imperfect and cursory examination of the position therefore reveals that to-day some 1,350 persons are directly concerned with some phase of scientific activity, that there are at least 140 laboratories and field stations available for other than teaching purposes and that there is a Government expenditure of the order of at least £1 ¾ million for scientific purposes.
Association of N.Z. and Overseas Scientific Effort
Having now summarised rather sketchily the extent of the effort as measured in terms of manpower, facilities and money devoted to scientific effort in N.Z., it is hardly necessary to point out that it is impossible to segregate the result of this effort from that reaching N.Z. from the rest of the world. N.Z. has always drawn heavily on overseas sources for her scientific advances and will continue to do so. Her people have shown remarkable versatility and ability in adapting overseas results into N.Z. practice. In every phase of N.Z. industry a very alert watch is kept on overseas advances which may possibly have some application locally. Agricultural science is exceptionally well provided for in this direction by the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux and Institutes which maintain a world coverage of all agricultural advances, and reports them regularly, in the abstracts issued.
How Are The Results Of Scientific Advances Brought To Fruition
It seldom happens that the findings of the scientist either in the laboratory or in the field or from overseas, are in a form suitable for immediate application. The scientist embodies the results of his work in a scientific paper which is published. This paper may well be written in language which is obscure to many readers and fails to impress—as did Mendel's papers on his experiments in the breeding of peas. In order to widen the range of interest the paper generally needs re-writing in more popular language by the author himself, or by someone else, whose approach could well be less analytical and more synthetical than that of the author. The effect of this widening of the range of interest is to bring in the active assistance of technically trained personnel whose ability to adapt the finding into practical use is of immense advantage—and the number of such versatile people is large.
It is therefore of prime consideration, once a new principle is discovered, to have this published widely, so that as large a field as possible of scientific and technical interests can be assembled in order to get the discovery adapted for practice. Such improvements can at times be made by technicians that these almost seem to be of more importance than the original discovery itself.
To-day scientific journals, trade journals and the Press are generally ready to give liberal space to new reports of discoveries. Often indeed, they are too generous, make claims that cannot be substantiated and cause embarrassment. Nevertheless the Press plays an important educative role in preparing the general public for coming advances or developing an attitude of receptiveness towards new things which embody progress.
The radio and the film, themselves the products of recent scientific effort, now also help greatly in the introduction of new advances and speed up the tempo of their adoption.
In the sphere of agriculture, New Zealand's chief industry, the extension officer, the demonstration plot, the short courses of instruction, the special conferences and demonstrations, all are most important measures which ensure the application of the research workers' results.
Basic to all this is, of course, a good standard of education throughout the community and hence the interest which the scientist should take in educational affairs. This interest should certainly not be confined to the science subjects only, but should be much wider and embrace the humanities and cultured subjects. Denmark was brought within a century from one of the poorest European States to one of the most prosperous and probably the most advanced scientific agricultural country, by Pastor Grundtvig's system of education which was biassed towards literature and art rather than towards science.
New processes, discoveries, new plants from overseas are seldom in a form ready for immediate adoption in N.Z. Many serious losses have occurred in the past when such have been introduced by optimists who were unaware or oblivious of the vexatious teething stages to which all such acclimatisations are prone. It is at this very stage that a comparatively small amount of scientific guidance can be so helpful.
Analysis of the Present Effort Into its Different Components
New Zealand's scientific effort may be divided into three main groups—(1) teaching, (2) research, (3) scientific services.
If the advances of science are to be fully utilised to their best advantage, it is essential that the community should be educated to appreciate the significance of this progress and to be able to integrate it into the general prosperity and public welfare.
In view of the rapid developments taking place in every sphere of science and their impact on every industry and walk of life, the task of the educator has become one of great complexity and this must be recognised. It is easy to be bewildered by the onrush of new discoveries to-day. In past years these came slowly and there was time to reflect, and to build them gradually and solidly into the educational programme. This ever changing or rapidly changing state of affairs raises for educators a formidable problem which cannot be elaborated here, though its significance is fully recognised.
The term “research” is not easily defined satisfactorily and to-day is used far too often and too loosely. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is often referred to shortly as the Research Department and from this
there follows a series of misapprehensions. It is concluded that as this department has a vote of £1,000,000 and a professional staff of some 400 that this represents a very large effort indeed for N.Z. in the realm of research. Recently the activities of all branches of the Department were analysed and it was found that about 40% of the effort was devoted to research and 60% to the provision of scientific services to Government Departments and Industry. It is, of course, true that in some branches of the Department the effort is almost wholly research, but there are few branches which do not provide some scientific service which is not strictly research. In the Agricultural Branches of the Department taken as a whole some 80% of the effort is devoted to applied research work. There are many discoveries of which it is reasonable to expect that they will become rapidly assimilated into agriculture or industry and no longer need the attention of the research man. On the other hand, there are a great many more which however much they are adopted into practice, still need regular continuing attention from the scientist. In New Zealand by far the greatest effort is devoted to problems of applied science, and such fundamental work as is being done arises for the most part from the applied problems. In agriculture and in industry a very wide range of applied problems is receiving investigation and the results of the work are being fed to those who seek it.
Scientists with a flair for research are sufficiently rare to justify a policy of restricting them to research work and restraining them from becoming immersed in the application of their findings, in which sphere in general they are not regarded as being very apt. On the other hand in a small country such as N.Z. the scientist and the industrialist can come together easily so that it often happens that research is extended into the provision of scientific service. It would be preferable, if possible, for the research scientist to hand over to a service scientist or a technician the technical work necessary to bring his discovery into practical use.
3. Scientific Service to Government Departments.
Scientific service is that guidance which Government Departments and modern industry regularly requires on day to day problems. Plants, rocks, insects require identification; waters, milks, paints, gas, road materials demand testing; time, weather forecast services have to be provided and as all these and many others can only be done by specialist scientists, of suitable qualifications and experience, these tasks remain in the hands of scientists and the public expect to-day such services as a normal part of modern civilisation. The extent to which such services are provided is much greater than is normally believed. It is good that there are such demands, some of which appear likely to continue indefinitely while others will become superfluous with the passage of time. Scientific service provides excellent opportunities for bringing together the scientist, the problem and the originator of the problem.
State Departments with their very wide range of activities in N.Z. make large demands on scientific services which often contain research problems. A glance at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Annual Report reveals the extent of this demand as it affects the Dominion Laboratory. In this sphere the application of the results present little or no difficulty as it is settled by consultation between officers of the two Departments. This is typical of what occurs whenever problems of an inter-departmental nature arise. It
points the need however for non scientific Departments to have men on their staffs who are capable of defining problems, and then interpreting or applying the results of the laboratory or experimental station.
Governments must recognise that problems requiring more and more scientific attention are likely to arise in the future in all Departments. Many of these problems are likely to require a diversity of scientific talents to ensure their satisfactory solution and hence the need for developing an integrated group of scientists provided with such facilities as will make possible a combined attack on such problems. This will help safeguard sound Departmental administration which in turn may affect local industries profoundly.
4. Scientific Service to Industry.
A more complex situation arises when the results of scientific effort require promulgation widely to industry. Various methods are resorted to. If a scientific paper is published, this is written in more popular form and published in the Press, or as a leaflet and particulars broadcasted. If the discovery relates to agriculture, particulars are given in an article in the Journal of Agriculture which goes to almost every farmer in N.Z., and the assistance of the extension officers of the Department ensures that it is brought prominently to the notice of all those to whom it might be of interest. At a later date further publicity may be given by articles contributed by extension officers and farmers stating their experiences. The daily Press also opens its columns readily to new developments and it is well to remember that N.Z. is remarkably well provided for by a group of farm periodicals of high standing. Then the organizers of farmers' conferences always make a practice of including addresses on scientific topics in their agendas. In every year many thousands of farmers pay visits to the Agricultural Colleges, the experimental areas of the Departments of Scientific and Industrial Research and Agriculture and to Cawthron Institute, and there come in contact with the latest advances.
This very briefly indicates the methods used and the opportunities which arise for informing and instructing the agricultural community on all new advances in scientific agriculture and accounts for the eager attitude adopted by farmers towards new developments in this sphere.
Dairy farmers, wheatgrowers, fruitgrowers, tobacco growers and hopgrowers have formed with funds of their own and financial help from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Research Committees or Associations to deal with the particular problems of their own industry. In these organizations, the farmers, in addition to providing half the cost of the scientific research work, have to participate in the preparation of the programmes, and in the periodical reviews of their progress. The effect of this is to bring a number of representative farmers into very close touch with the actual scientific work and they in turn influence a wider circle of their confreres so that the particular branch of farmers feels a very direct concern and interest in the results secured. This arrangement greatly promotes the speedy application of results.
Despite all this effort to publicise advances in agricultural progress complaints are many of its failure to “get across.”
In the manufacturing industries the Research Associations, of which 5 are now established, provide by far the best method of undertaking research and
scientific assistance to industry. The industry concerned pays half the cost of the research work and controls all its activities through an autonomous Association. The Director of the Association and his staff maintains close personal contact with the contributing units of the industry, prepares special reports on a number of their common problems, translates into local use the findings of overseas research, and undertakes applied research on problems of the industry. In this type of organization all improvements, changes, and innovations devised by the scientist can be rapidly put through their technical stages and brought to practical fruition right in the factories themselves. Though somewhat specialised in themselves these Associations have at their back the whole varied range of scientific resources of the whole Department of S.I.R., and this is a very real asset and source of strength.
The manufacturing industries of the Dominion as a whole, can, if private laboratory help is not available, call on the services of the Dominion Laboratory, Geological Survey, Dominion Physical Laboratory and on two organizations, Auckland Industrial Development Laboratory and Canterbury College Industrial Development Department, established especially to provide scientific assistance to manufacturers. Industrial liaison officers were appointed to further promote contacts between industries and these scientific organizations. A fairly complete coverage therefore exists for helping manufacturing industries to keep abreast of scientific advances and for undertaking research in their own local problems.
In addition the Press or a series of industrial bulletins and magazines give generous space to technical improvements that have any application to N.Z. manufacturing industries.
Scientific results are made available through two sources: (1) Government Departments, (2) Agricultural and Manufacturing Industries.
The Extent to Which Government Departments make use of Science
The magnetic re-survey made a few years ago is in use by the Lands and Survey Dept., the Marine Dept. and the Air Dept. in connection with their mapping activities. The Broadcasting and P. and T. Depts. make use of the Ionospheric data compiled by the Geophysics Division for modifications in their radio reception and transmission. The Works Dept. is making very full use of the geological and geophysical investigations in the Taupo district for the location of sources of steam to generate electric power. For many years every proposed hydro dam site has been the subject of intensive geological and geophysical investigations before actual construction work commenced. To-day such has been the advance made in the use of small scale models for interpreting the hydro-dynamic problems of power dams that no dam is planned until much investigation of this type is completed by the Dominion Physical Laboratory. The Works Dept. also calls on the Soil Bureau for soil stability investigations relating to sites on which large heavy structures are proposed to be erected and on the Dominion Laboratory for tests of the bitumen and concrete mixtures used for highway construction. During the war some seven officers of the Grasslands Division were seconded to the Works Department for the purpose of ensuring proper turf production on aerodrome runways.
A number of Government Departments seek guidance regularly from the Dominion Laboratory on problems of paint and corrosion and the Health Department makes constant demands on it for investigation into drugs, foodstuffs,
waters and milk. The Department of Industries and Commerce with its responsibility for the quality of the town gas supplies available calls in the Laboratory regularly for testing work, while the Mines Department looks to it and to the Geological Survey for scientific advice regarding coal and minerals. The Tourist Department has had the help of Dominion Physical Laboratory for radio telephone installation suitable for alpine regions and the Geological Survey for assistance in ensuring permanent supplies of thermal water at its various Spas. The same Department has also sought the help of the Entomological Division for methods of minimising the mosquito and sandfly nuisance present in so many attractive resorts.
The Post and Telegraph and Broadcasting Departments constantly draw on the services of the Dominion Laboratory and the Dominion Physical Laboratory in connection with corrosion problems, tests of routes for radio telephone installations and for quartz crystal oscillators. The Railway Department often requires geological guidance in connection with tunnels, embankments, cuttings and water supplies or help from the Grasslands and Botany Divisions on plant coverings which will assist in the prevention of soil erosion. The State Forest Services interest in the resin content of the extensive pinus plantations in its charge and in the insect pests which affect them, leads to it having recourse to the services of the Dominion Laboratory and the Entomological Station.
The list might be extended much further, but enough has been mentioned to indicate the wide content of which scientific service enters into the sound administration of a modern state. It can be said with confidence that the Heads of State Departments in New Zealand fully recognise the assistance that science can provide them in their problems and call freely upon this assistance.
Examples of the Application of Scientific Results in New Zealand
(1) Agricultural Industries:
These are some examples where, as the result of research work done in New Zealand, new industries have been established. For years, fish livers were completely wasted, but Dr. Shorland's interest and investigations revealed how rich these were in vitamins. This led to their being recovered and processed by several firms so that a new industry worth several hundred thousand pounds has been established and the fishermen collect some £25,000 annually for the livers they save.
Further work by the Dominion Physical Laboratory and the Auckland Industrial Laboratories has provided a molecular still capable of concentrating the crude liver oil and adding considerably to its value and use. To-day a small industry, using a raw material hitherto wasted, is producing very valuable vitamins which play an important part in the health of the community and an additional export.
Japan's entry into World War II deprived New Zealand and Britain of supplies of agar, a material of considerable importance for bacteriological and commercial use. The investigations by Miss Lucy Moore of the Botany Division on New Zealand seaweeds, revealed the presence of extensive beds of Pterocladia on the east coast of the North Island. Chemical processing by the Dominion Laboratory showed that this weed was a rich source of agar. Collection of the Pterocladia by Maori coastal residents provided them with additional income and the weed is now used by one firm as the raw material for the production of agar which is exported overseas.
Before World War II Mr. J. W. Hadfield was investigating the possibilities of linen flax as a crop for certain cropped out areas in the South Island. New varieties of linen flax were tested out in relation to soil and climatic conditions throughout the South Island and a stock of proved seed had been built up. When Britain called for additional supplies of linen flax fibre, the scientific work done in the growing and the processing of the crop, both in New Zealand and overseas, was utilised to establish an industry which supplied thousands of tons of fibre and how to meet Britain's requirements. To-day the industry remains, and is quite a profitable one to the Corporation which controls it and to the farmers who grow the linen flax.
All three examples refer to new industries established as the result of local scientific investigations.
Next for consideration are examples of some existing industries which have been greatly assisted by local research work, or by local scientific effort in applying and adapting overseas scientific results to the needs of New Zealand industries.
During World War II the Dairy Industry was faced with the problem of disposal of second grade and whey butter, because only first-class butter could be shipped in the limited refrigerated space then available in the reduced number of ships trading between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The problem of converting this second grade butter into dried butter-fat was tackled by the Dairy Research Institute. Within a year it was solved by Dr. McDowall and commercial plants were in operation converting and packing this dried butter-fat for shipment in ordinary non-refrigerated ships, thereby greatly assisting in relieving the pressing shortage of fats in Britain. The expenditure of a few thousand pounds of effort in research provided a saving estimated by the New Zealand Dairy Board at the time to be worth £400,000 to the industry.
Cheese manufacture is very dependent upon supplies of efficient starters for coagulating the milk. There are many strains of these starters and their efficiency is very variable and apt to be spasmodic. The work of Dr. Whitehead of the Dairy Research Institute has ensured the supply of very good cultures to the cheese factories and the value of this assistance can never fully be assessed.
Dr. Whitehead was also responsible for overcoming the serious recurring problem of non-acid milk which refused to curdle in cheese vats after starters had been added. He discovered for the first time that this was due to the presence of bacteriophage, an organism which actually destroyed the starter culture, and whose control requried long and patient study before methods of dealing with it were devised. To-day cheese factories can control what was an increasing and most vexatious problem.
Recital of these achievements tends to under-estimate what was required to attain them Both were solved by the efforts of workers who had behind them a wealth of knowledge and experience in a very wide sphere of chemistry and biology as it applied to dairy produce.
The Dairy Industry provides further examples of how a combination of effort between local and overseas scientists has enabled results to be applied which have been of very real value The Herd Recording Association has for years accumulated evidence of the serious losses caused through two diseases, mammitis and contagious abortion. Sir Alexander Fleming's penicillin tested
out by the staff of the Animal Research Division has proved so effective against mammitis, that fat production has been increased by approximately 3lb. per cow, worth some £650,000 of butter-fat annually. The penicillin necessary to achieve this is estimated to cost some £50,000, leaving a very handsome annual profit of £600,000. For over 25 years research in the control of this disease had been patiently followed and is estimated to have cost some £90,000 in all. The knowledge gained, although perhaps negative in character, thereby enabled the advantage of the new antibiotic to be very soundly and speedily applied throughout the New Zealand dairy industry.
Contagious abortion disease was known to have an incidence of 5% in dairy herds and to reduce by 30% the production of each cow affected. The Animal Research Division introduced from the United States of America a vaccine known as Strain 19, and tested it out thoroughly under New Zealand conditions. So effective has it been that the incidence of the disease has been reduced from 5% to 1%, giving an increase in butter-fat worth £656,000. With the vaccine costing £26,000 a net gain of £630,000 is left for the advantage of the industry.
Though the tobacco industry had long been established in various districts it had never been particularly prosperous. In 1936 the industry underwent a re-organization and the newly constituted Tobacco Board promoted the establishment of a Tobacco Research Station. A programme of field and laboratory work was mangurated in 1939 by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in association with Cawthron Institute, in the centre of the main tobacco growing area at Motueka. The results of fifteen years of investigation, which have been intelligently used by the growers have made this one of the most prosperous of New Zealand's rural industries. The area in tobacco in the Nelson province has doubled in this period and the yield per acre almost doubled. In the four years prior to the establishment of the Research Station the yield of leaf per acre averaged 659lb. In the four years 1947–50 the average has been 1,155lb which at the price of 3/- per lb. represents a gain of £74/8/- per acre, or an increase of £297,600 on the 4,000 acres grown in Nelson. The details of the research developments in fertilizing, disease control, curing and propagation need not be listed, but thanks to a well-organized and appreciative industry this knowledge has been well applied with the beneficial financial results to which reference has been made. The total cost of research to the tobacco industry since the establishment of the station has been £15,716.
The wheat industry provides another example of the value of scientific research from the work of biologists and chemists. The results affect all three groups, wheatgrowers, flourmillers and bakers who constitute this industry. The Tuscan variety a high yielding, wind resistant, but poor flour quality wheat predominated in Canterbury and Otago. Lincoln College and the Wheat Research Institute bred Cross 7, a variety yielding high quality flour for baking and possessing a number of qualities such as high yield, short straw and wind resistance, which made it very acceptable to farmers who were then moving rapidly towards the use of header harvesters. To-day Cross 7 occupies nearly 70 per cent. of the wheat area, having displaced Tuscan. The cost of the breeding and testing of this new variety was approximately £3,000. Further varieties, Tainui, Fife Tuscan, Hilgendorf and Yielder have been bred by the Wheat Research Institute. The cost involved would be of the order of £3,000-£5,000 per variety and the annual value of the increased yield derived from any one variety would be of the order of £75,000.
Laboratory studies have shown how sprouted wheat damaged by rain can be reclaimed and used for milling and baking with little loss of quality and many bushels have been saved in wet years thanks to this knowledge. Further, the Vitamin content of flour and its suitability for baking has been improved by research work which showed the value of sorting out from the flour stream certain of the germ sections found to be high in vitamin content for incorporation into the main stream This practice was extensively adopted by New Zealand flour mills which were obliged by shortages of wheat to extract a higher than normal percentage of flour from the grain.
New Zealand's principal crop is pasture. Its problems have been the subject of investigation by a number of organizations, but principally by the Grasslands Division. Effort has been concentrated first on producing improved strains of ryegrass and clovers and secondly on their management and utilization Short rotation ryegrass, a composite pedigree variety, has in association with white clover shown its capacity to produce high yields of high protein fodder during the lean periods of the year Its spread among the farming community has been phenomenal, and in recent years alone, the seed produced of this variety has averaged at least a value of £150,000 annually. The cost of the research associated with it is estimated at some £6,000 in all. It is impossible to assess the far higher value of this ryegrass strain as measured by the increased feed it provides for cattle and sheep.
Improved strains of ryegrass and clover properly managed have shown a productive capacity of as high as 16,000lb of dry matter per acre annually. 4,000lb of dry matter production per acre represents a butter-fat production of 200lb per acre. The yield from properly managed pastures comprised of the best strains of ryegrass and clovers could thereby be doubled or trebled in terms of butterfat. As an example a 78 acre farm which in 1948 produced 8,000lb of butter fat from 45 cows by only a limited application of Grassland's Division's methods increased its production in 1950 to 19,000lb of butterfat from 60 cows.
Experiments were initiated to ascertain whether pasture methods which had proved highly successful on ploughable flat land could be applied to unploughable hill country. Within 4 years the carrying capacity of unploughable hill country was increased from 1 ½ ewes to 3 ewes per acre. Similar improvement is possible on 7,000,000 acres of this class of country in the North Island.
The Fruit Industry is very dependent for its prosperity on export Apples and pears, unlike meat and butter, are living entities whose metabolism continues during refrigerated storage and transport. Some are so sensitive that they cannot remain sound for the duration of the voyage to the United Kingdom. Studies of the respiratory action of apples in cold storage at the Low Temperature Research Station, Cambridge in association with shipboard trials arranged in New Zealand have now provided data which has led to very extensive changes in the equipment of the carrying vessels, so that temperatures, ventilation and the gas content of the holds can be varied to suit the requirements of the particular variety of apple or pear. This association of United Kingdom and New Zealand scientific effort has solved some very stubborn problems which often led to very large losses amounting to many thousands of pounds each season These occurrences are now a thing of the past and the total cost of the research work done in New Zealand would quite easily be met by an expenditure of £5,000.
The fruitgrower wages continual war against pests and diseases which are ever ready to take a heavy toll of his crop. The Plant Diseases Division has for some years had these diseases under very close investigation and from these a constant stream of scientific knowledge of their control by the use of sprays has emerged, and is widely applied by fruitgrowers who through the “Orchardist” and the officers of the Horticulture Division are kept advised of the progress made. The investigations have also provided at the same time much information about the efficacy of sprays which have been helpful to manufacturers and growers alike. The list of certified therapeutants issued twice yearly provides most valuable guidance to all orchardists in the Dominion.
For years prior to 1936 orchardists on some 1,800 acres of Moutere Hills apple growing land found their apples afflicted with corky pit disease which rendered them unfit for marketing. In some seasons over 45,000 cases worth perhaps £25,000 were rendered unmarketable. As the result of a very comprehensive series of experiments, J. D. Atkinson traced the trouble to a deficiency of boron in the soil, and for a cost of perhaps £1,000 solved a minor element deficiency which was depriving the fruit industry of £25,000 annually. Within three years, as the result of further work on boron usage by the Plant Diseases Division and Cawthron Institute there was no excuse for corky pit in a Nelson orchard seeing that the cost of treatment was only 25/- per acre. This discovery had worldwide significance for boron deficiency was actually affecting apples and pears in most of the world's fruit producing areas.
The Northern Spy rootstock has been extensively used for apples in New Zealand orchards in order to combat woolly aphis. This stock possesses a number of disadvantages and research work at East Malling has revealed the presence of three or four other stocks which tend to increase the yields of the scions grafted on to them. The Sturmer variety, one of New Zealand's main apples, grafted on to Malling 12 stock has been shown to give a yield of 300 bushels in excess of what it does on Northern Spy stock To implement the results of the findings of the Plant Diseases and Fruit Research Divisions on the important question of fruit tree stocks the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation has established a nursery from which some 60,000 pedigree true-to-name trees worth £8,500 are issued each year to fruitgrowers.
Some reference must be made to the important part played by science in the saving of losses to our main industry, agriculture, through the depredation of fungus and virus diseases and insect pests.
Two very serious pests of pastures were the grass caterpillar and the grass grub. The damage they caused annually must have ment a loss of £1,000,000 to New Zealand farmers and the loss was increasing as more valuable pasture grasses and stock were established. Both constituted admittedly most difficult problems for entomologists. The combined result of most intensive study in New Zealand and of chemical research overseas led to both of these pests being mastered within the past three years by the use of D.D.T., Gammexane and lead arsenate. The task too can be achieved at an economic cost of some 15/- per acre. The combined efforts of the staff of the Entomological Research Station and overseas chemists which probably cost New Zealand less than £15,000 provided a result which will save farmers from a loss of at least £1,000,000 annually, and bring New Zealand's major economic noxious insect, grass grub, under control.
Similar investigations on crickets which spoilt dairy pastures on the Hauraki Plains to the extent of some £45,000 annually, showed that a simple D.D.T. or Gammexane bait was an efficacious means of destroying the insects. The cost of the trials was some £40, and their value in application and saving of losses, therefore, gave a very high return to the scientific efforts of the Plant Diseases Division staff.
Malting barley and wheat used to be affected with strains of smut, the mere trace of which rendered them unsuitable for malting or milling. Plant Diseases Division staff, after investigations of the fungi, devised measures for their elimination, and the gain to the industries concerned with these two grains has been estimated as of the order of £140,000 annually. Many diseases of economic crops have been brought under control. Dry rot of swedes and turnips, grease spot of passion fruit, smut and yellow dwarf of onions, bacterial spot of plums are five diseases now brought under control and losses of an annual value of some £290,000 avoided as the result of investigations costing some £9,000 altogether.
The whole future of the phormium industry has for years been threatened by the menace of yellow leaf disease, which had already completely wiped out phormium plants from once extensive swamps. Yellow leaf had not yielded its secret to the many who had attempted to probe it over many decades. Three years ago a combined attack on it was made by officers of the Botany, Soil, Plant Diseases, Plant Chemistry and Entomology Divisions, using all the latest knowledge, approaches and techniques Success attended their efforts just when hopes were being abandoned, and as a result, this obscure disease is now known to be caused by a special N.Z. virus, transmitted by an endemic insect, oliarus, from infected to healthy phormium plants. It remains now to test out the efficacy of control measures and this major threat will be removed to this industry. The cost of the research work was of the order of £9,000 to £10,000, and the value of the industry saved cannot be assessed.
To grow a lucerne crop successfully in New Zealand the seed must be inoculated with culture prior to sowing The Plant Diseases Division in 1929 was successful in isolating a strain of culture which has proved efficacious ever since Last year 2,854 farmers paid £1,496 for culture to treat seed for sowing about 39,000 acres of lucerne. Had they inoculated their fields by the former method of spreading soil from old lucerne fields the cost of doing the inoculation would have been of the order of £78,000.
Many more examples could be quoted of the application results of New Zealand scientific effort offered in the agricultural industries, but these quoted must suffice.
(2) New Zealand manufacturing industries.
The wrapping of newspapers is generally done manually in New Zealand. The Auckland Development Laboratories undertook the design and fabrication of a machine to do the job, and a prototype was produced which had an output of 3,000 papers per hour, which was far in excess of the achievement of any other machine known to be available in the world This machine is now in production and is employed by several firms.
Chewings fescue seed is a very valuable product of the light lands of Southland, for there is a good overseas demand for the seed, which is used extensively for playing fields, and golf courses. Unfortunately the seed loses its vitality
very readily unless its moisture content is low, and so it was a very chancy export which often brought heavy losses to seed merchants. The smallness and the structure of the seed made it difficult to dry economically. The Chemical Engineering Section of the Dominion Laboratory investigated the whole matter and ultimately designed a drier which obviated the drawbacks of existing types of machines, had a good throughput and did not injure the seed. The driers are now in commercial production, and chewings fescue can be delivered to overseas buyers without loss of vitality.
Basic to all machinery manufacture is the provision of standard gauges. The Dominion Physical Laboratory holds master gauges and from these substandard types to meet the demands of manufacturers are prepared and issued. The importance of this scientific activity needs only to be mentioned to be appreciated.
High concentration of fish liver oil adds surprisingly to its value. The Dominion Physical Laboratory has designed and constructed two types of molecular distillation apparatus for this purpose, and these are in use in the plants processing their oil.
Woollen thread and garments suffer in popularity for their known propensity to shrink during washing. The Wool Industries Research Association, England, devised a means for treating wool to overcome this drawback, and the method was introduced and adapted to the New Zealand requirements by the staff of the Woollen Mills Research Association in Dunedin. To-day a number of mills have installed the equipment and are treating their products before sale, so that it is now possible to buy “non shrink” woollen garments.
Fuel problems affect almost every New Zealand manufacturer, whose profits depend very largely on the efficiency with which he uses his increasingly expensive coal. The Dominion Laboratory, following investigations of New Zealand coals, continued these into research on the acutual use of the coal in industries for generating steam power. Out of these researches emerged a Fuel Advisory Service which applied tests, devised as the result of the earlier work, which could be applied to all industrial steam installations. This resulted in the saving and better utilisation of coal and a reduction in the costs of operation in many plants throughout the Dominion.
This review of the application of science in New Zealand has grown too long and has referred too much to the activities of the Department of Science and Industrial Research. The scientific work done by the Marine Department's laboratory, by the Museums and Universities is used by many engaged in the fishing industry. The Wild Life Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs provides important scientific data for trappers and soil conservators. Cawthron Institute is in constant touch with the many and varied problems of the Nelson district, whose high productivity may be at least partly explained by this association.
An attempt has been made after imperfectly outlining the resources of manpower facilities and monies concerned in the Dominion's scientific effort, to indicate how the results of these efforts are promulgated for application in the national welfare and then finally a review of the association of the scientific effort and its actual application and value has been assayed.
Such is the tempo of the times that it is easy to forget the significance of achievements of a few years past. They easily become accepted as a matter of course, and the anxiety and worry they occasioned, as well as the effort demanded for their solution, being easily forgotten.
A review makes it plain, however, how many of the serious problems affecting our main industry, agriculture, have been dealt with during the past 20 years, in which time remarkable positive advances have been made and many serious handicaps eliminated. This has been done partly as the result of scientific effort performed solely in New Zealand and partly as the result of combined effort on the part of both New Zealand and overseas scientists.
The review also reveals that New Zealand industry has shown a readiness to adopt scientific advances and to use them in ways which promote our national prosperity, which to an increasing extent must depend on the assistance with which scientific effort must supply.
Finally, there exists abundant evidence that where applied intelligently the results of scientific effort pay very handsome dividends whether in Government Departments or in New Zealand industries.