9 Apr 2015

Sustainable farming research to begin

2:21 pm on 9 April 2015

Improving potato yields, groundwater and the use of precision agriculture technology are the aims of three of about 30 new projects to get support from the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Farmer with basket of organic potatoes.

Photo: AFP

The research will be undertaken by the Foundation for Arable Research.

Chief executive Nick Pyke said studying nitrate leaching into aquifers was a project specifically for the Ashburton region in Canterbury.

"So it involves monitoring a range of bores throughout that region on a regular basis for nitrate levels and seeing how they vary, both spatially and over time through the year, then farmers have got some understanding of what's going on.

"They'll know if there are high risk areas or if there are things they should be doing to protect certain areas, as well."

He said test plots and field studies will be used to study how farmers can avoid disease in their potato crop.

"Potato yields are not increasing markedly over time. There's a range of constraints on yield and they include soil-borne diseases and soil quality.

"What potato growers try to do is use paddocks that haven't been in potatoes for a period of time, so that the disease levels are less, but we don't know a lot in the New Zealand situation what impact the crops planted before potatoes are having on soil quality and soil-borne disease.

"So this project is about how we can try and develop crop rotation to improve the soil quality for potato growers.

Mr Pyke said the third project will develop easy to use precision agriculture technology for growers to better manage soil inputs and crops.