United, we’re fast tracking change

1 September 2019

Tararua Plantain Project

Through a collective approach between dairy farmers, regional councils and dairy sector partners, methods for improving the environment are quickly being adopted across New Zealand. These three DairyNZ-led projects build on existing research and the work being done by farmers.

Tararua plantain project

Plaintain research could be a game-changer for dairy farmers.

About the project

Many dairy farmers in Tararua District are facing a massive challenge right now. Under Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan, they’re required to reduce their nitrogen (N) leaching by an average of 60 percent.Plantain is set to play a key role in the solution. Recent DairyNZ research has found New Zealand-bred plantain cultivars reduce soil N concentration from cows’ urine patches. This allows plants to utilise a greater proportion of N, which reduces N leaching by an estimated five to 30 percent, depending on soil type and the quantity of plantain in the cows’ diet.Based on these findings, Tararua dairy farmers have initiated the seven-year Tararua Plantain Project, managed by DairyNZ. Scientists from DairyNZ and partner organisations are helping farmers to make plantain work in their systems, aiming to reduce N loss while maintaining farm profit.DairyNZ and Ministry for Primary Industries (through its Sustainable Farming Fund) are majority funders. It’s also supported by Horizons Regional Council, AgResearch, Agricom, and Fonterra.

Farmer action

Paddock-scale monitoring is underway on eight farms. Water quality monitoring and modelling will be carried out as the farmers incorporate plantain into their systems. Results will be shared with farmers and the local community, showing the potential for, and actual improvements achieved from, plantain.

Hinds and Selwyn project

Insipiring high-performance, low-footprint farms.

About the project

The Hinds and Selwyn Project, funded by DairyNZ, is helping local farmers to meet nitrogen (N) loss limits and maintain profitable businesses under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.DairyNZ is working alongside a group of farmers to help them identify the most appropriate solutions, considering their production systems and goals.The information gleaned from these farms is providing a range of examples and options for other farmers to consider.

Farmer action

DairyNZ has worked closely with 30 partner farms since the project started in September 2018, and we’ll work with another 20 in year two.The main changes farmers have made to reduce their environmental footprint are:

  • improved irrigation efficiency and effluent management
  • lower N use (from more efficient use of fertiliser)
  • increased use of feeds with lower N content
  • using catch crops to capture available N during winter months.

Using plantain is also a common feature among the partner farmers, but the way this forage is used varies from farm to farm.

DairyNZ senior developer Phillipa Hedley speaking at the launch of the Hinds and Selwyn Project last year.

Aparima community environment project

Large-scale initiative expected to have big effect on water quality.

About the project

Funded and supported by DairyNZ, a group of Southland farmers have united to tackle water quality issues in the Aparima Catchment. They’re encouraging Good Farming Practice principles on all 600 properties (of which 218 are dairy farms) in the catchment, aiming to enhance water quality for future generations.This large-scale project involves farmers, land managers, extension experts (like DairyNZ consulting officers) and scientists. They’re working together to identify, implement and track environmental actions across a wide range of farming properties and land uses. Through modelling and monitoring, the actions of every farm plan will be linked to water quality outcomes.The Aparima Community Environment Project involves six farmer-led catchment groups, Environment Southland, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and Fonterra, plus support from other industry groups.

Farmer action

Over the next two years, all landowners in the Aparima Catchment will form a Farm Environment Plan (FEP), with support from DairyNZ. A key focus will be applying Good Farming Practice principles for planting and feeding winter crops. This includes taking steps to reduce surface runoff. For example, farmers will choose their crop paddock wisely, identify low-lying areas in the paddock and leave these in grass, or graze through the area quickly to reduce pugging and overland flow of sediment into waterways.

Aparima Community Environment Project.

Find out more about these three projects by going to dairynz.co.nz/catchmentprojectsThis article was originally published in each of the three special regional issues of Inside Dairy September 2019


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