Environmental gains as farmers reduce nitrogen loss
17 November 2021
Dairy farmers in Canterbury’s Selwyn catchment are actively reducing their footprint, with data indicating many have reduced nitrogen loss by 30 percent.
“Selwyn farmers have been working hard to achieve this milestone, taking steps on their farms to look after the environment,” says DairyNZ solutions and development lead advisor Virginia Serra.
“Preliminary information shows 70 percent of Selwyn farmers have met their 30 percent nitrogen loss reduction target set by Environment Canterbury.
“Another 20 percent are well on track to achieving it and are receiving support to get there. The remaining farmers will be supported this season to make progress.”
DairyNZ collated the data from dairy companies and irrigation companies, plus a DairyNZ survey.
Dairy farmers are using Farm Environment Plans to identify actions to reduce footprint, including improving water quality. Nitrogen is one of several contributors to water quality, with phosphorus, sediment and E. coli also playing a vital role and covered by the farm plans.
“Reducing nitrogen loss over time helps improve water quality and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Mrs Serra.
“Achieving these results is not easy and farmers are working hard to deliver. They are doing their best to keep up with regulations, across the spectrum of farming.”
DairyNZ has been working with farmers from Selwyn and Hinds for three years through the Meeting a Sustainable Future project, supporting them to reduce nitrogen loss. This includes trialling options with 40 partner farms and sharing knowledge with local farmers.
A recent DairyNZ survey showed all Selwyn and Hinds farmers surveyed are adapting practices to reduce nitrogen loss. This includes improving irrigation efficiency and effluent management, reducing fertiliser use, using the grazing herb plantain (which reduces nitrogen loss) and some are changing their stocking rate.
For more information on the Meeting a Sustainable Future project, go to dairynz.co.nz/selwynhinds
- Most Selwyn dairy farmers are required by current Environment Canterbury rules to reduce nitrogen losses by 30 percent by 2022, compared to their baseline figure from 2009-2013. A farm’s baseline figure is its average annual nitrogen loss over those four years.
- In July, a new nationwide nitrogen cap came into effect, capping synthetic nitrogen fertiliser applied to pasture at 190kg N/ha/year.