The divide between plant-related research in the DSIR and animal-related research in the Department of Agriculture remained for many years, with scientists competing and collaborating across the divide.
By the late 1980s it was evident that there were many similarities in the research conducted by MAF and the DSIR into soil fertility, pasture productivity, animal production, animal management and horticulture. Between 1981 and 1989 government funding of research fell by 38%. Consequently, research agencies were required to obtain more of their funds from the private sector.
Partly as a means of increasing total investment in science, especially by the private sector, and partly to improve the efficiency of funding by making it more contestable, the DSIR was disbanded in 1992. All government research departments were formed into 10 Crown research institutes, reduced to nine in 1995, then to eight in 2008. All were required to earn an adequate rate of return on shareholders’ funds.
The New Zealand Pastoral Agriculture Research Institute (AgResearch) is directly involved in research into agriculture or horticulture, and deals with agricultural problems and research products.
AgResearch's Agriculture and Environment Group aims to develop sustainable production systems, strategies for weed and pest control, animal health therapies, and ways to control gaseous emissions and nutrient losses from farm systems. The Applied Biotechnologies Group works on new technologies and products to improve plant and animal reproduction and growth, based on improved understanding of their genes. The Food and Textiles Group deals with dairy science, textile science, and food metabolism and microbiology. AgResearch also runs the Meat Industry Research Institute, and is a partner in the Hopkirk Research Institute at Massey, and in Canensis (formerly WRONZ, the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand). It has formal research agreements with more than 100 other organisations around the world.
Products developed by AgResearch include:
- Magnum, which delivers high-dose, slow-release internal parasite control to animals
- EnCoate, a bio-polymer coating with many uses, from food to seeds to insect control products
- Farmax, a computerised farm-management tool
- ContainerScan, a high-speed method for sampling the atmosphere and detecting unwanted chemicals in containers.