18 Sep 2015

More environmental practices, say agricultural orgs

3:35 pm on 18 September 2015

DairyNZ and AgResearch have told MPs the next step for a major dairy research programme is for farmers to implement practices aimed at reducing their environmental footprint.

The five year programme, Pastoral 21, is funded by the Government and dairy industry bodies and focuses on finding systems that lift production and reduce nutrient loss.

DairyNZ's strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold told MPs the programme comes to an end in 2016, so the next focus is getting five years' of research and practices implemented behind the farm gate.

"What the research has shown is that we've made some big gains in terms of nutrient loss both nitrogen and phosphorus, but in terms of gains in profitability that we're after in the system as well for individual farmers, those certainly aren't there. We've had to put infrastructure in and make system changes, some of which have cost profitability and in terms of production, which mostly really reflects in regional economies, again we have had pretty mixed results in terms of being able to achieve production gains," said Bruce Thorrold.

He said the next phase of the research, which they're currently planning needs to focus on how they maintain those footprint gains, then how they drive profitability and production up within those constraints.

Mark Shephard of AgResearch said farmers were already adopting simple changes in grazing techniques, which have a big impact on reducing nutrient losses.

"By changing the direction of the grazing so that you're actually grazing towards the water course, you're actually leaving foliage, fodder, uncompacted soil there for longer, and therefore you reduce the opportunity for pugging sediment and movement towards the water course," said Mark Shephard.

He said it is very simple but it took some good science brains to think about it and make it happen.