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Our history

Our history

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Our history

Professional scientific research to aid agriculture and horticulture in New Zealand dates back to the early 1900s - Plant & Food Research is part of this long history and still operates from some of the original buildings of the DSIR.


1926 - The Department of Science and Industrial Research (DSIR) formed after pressure from scientists – including the celebrated Lord Rutherford – and the recommendation of a visiting British expert.

1928 - DSIR joined with the Department of Agriculture in establishing a Plant Research Station.

1936 - Plant Research Station was transferred entirely to the DSIR - The DSIR begins doing its own research rather than coordinating other institutions. Five separate research divisions were created:

  • Grasslands in Palmerston North

  • Plant Diseases in Auckland

  • Entomology, attached to the Cawthron Institute in Nelson

  • Soil Survey (later Soil Bureau) in Taita, Wellington

  • Agronomy (later Crop Research Division) in Lincoln.

1948 - Fruit Research Station created, which found ways to combat orchard pests and diseases, and bred new varieties of apples and other fruit.

1962 - Plant Physiology Division was created at Palmerston North, special ‘climate control’ rooms set up where temperature, day length and humidity could be varied to study the effects on plant growth.

1970 - Applied Biochemistry Division set up, investigating the biochemistry of plant materials.

1980 - Horticulture and Processing Division formed.

1992 - On 1 July 1992, Ten Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) were established out of former government departments:

  • Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR)

  • MAF Technology out of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF)

  • Forest Research Institute out of the Ministry of Forestry

  • Part of the Meteorological Service of the Ministry of Transport

  • Health Service Laboratories of the Ministry of Health.

The CRIs formed included:

  • The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand (HortResearch)

  • The New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research (Crop & Food Research)

  • The New Zealand Pastoral Agriculture Research Institute (AgResearch)

  • The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR)

  • The New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited (Scion)

  • The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)

  • Industrial Research Limited (IRL)

  • Landcare Research New Zealand (Landcare Research)

  • National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

  • The Institute For Social Research and Development - disestablished in 1995.

2008 – On 1 December 2008, Plant & Food Research formed following the merger of former CRIs HortResearch and Crop & Food Research.