16 Jun 2021

Government and industry invest in plantain research for freshwater quality

2:36 pm on 16 June 2021

Millions of dollars is being poured into research to see if using plantain pastures will help dairy farmers improve freshwater quality.


Plantain. Photo: Supplied

Associate Agriculture Minister Hon Meka Whaitiri today announced an $8.98 million government grant over seven years to expand the sector-run Plantain Potency and Practice programme.

DairyNZ, PGG Wrightson Seeds and Fonterra are investing a further $10.47m in cash and $2.8m in kind towards the progamme.

The programme aims to substantially reduce nitrate leaching to freshwater from New Zealand dairy farms using plantain.

Plantain - scientifically known as Plantago lanceolata - is a robust herb suited to pastures, with a tap root that gives some drought tolerance, but it offers feed quality similar to ryegrass.

PGG Wrightson Seeds chief executive John McKenzie welcomed the government support.

"We're optimistic the programme will confirm previous research, commissioned by us and undertaken by a range of organisations, showing plantain has the potential to significantly contribute to environmental improvement."

The funding will go towards large scale farm experiments at Lincoln and Massey Universities which will measure nitrate leaching under plantain pasture compared to perennial ryegrass.

If proven successful, the partners will work with farmers nationwide using a co-development approach to help them adopt plantain onto their farms.

Greenpeace Aotearoa senior campaigner Steve Abel said, while it was great to see the Government investigating more diverse crops, no silver bullet solution can replace the need to cut nitrate pollution at its source - by phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and lowering cow stocking rates.

"Pasture diversity is a good thing, and as part of regenerative farming can lead to better outcomes for animals, land and water. However, the Government still needs to act to reduce nitrate contamination at its source," Abel said.

"Cutting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and reducing cow stocking rates not only reduces nitrate contamination leaching into our rivers and drinking water, these are the most proven and effective ways to cut climate pollution from intensive dairying." 


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