Rural round-up

February 25, 2013

Joyce hints at more partnerships – Tim Fulton:

Science and Economic Development Steven Joyce has hinted at more partnerships between Lincoln and the private sector, calling his unspecified plan a crucial part of the tech-transfer story.

Joyce was at the university’s dairy research farm launching the second stage of the Pastoral 21 programme, highlighting the importance of places like Lincoln for information-sharing.

There had been a lot of talk over the years about the Lincoln campus developing and becoming a true agri-technology hub, he said.

Now, despite the cost of repairing earthquake damage, the university had a unique opportunity to take that role. . .

To feed the world we need to fix the politics not the environment – Milking on the Moove:

They say there will be 9 Billion people in 2050. The popular question is “how can we feed that number of people?”

There is literally not a day go by where I’m not confronted with some sort of report, program or video about the challenge of feeding the world.

The common theme is we need to increase agricultural productivity to meet this massive demand. The view that we have limited resources that will make food production more expensive or difficult in the future is widely popular.

Some people who belong to the environmental movements, like to use the growing demand to push their causes, one such cause is to promote the vegan lifestyle as less cattle will reduce CO2 emissions. 

Businesses also jump on the band wagon, because it allows them to get subsidies that keep their business profitable when it otherwise would not be, solar panel manufacturers spring to mind. . .

Eco-n suspension blow for Ravensdown – Tim Fulton:

Ravensdown is usually on full show at Lincoln farming events but last Thursday it was fronting up in a different way, explaining its position after suspending sales of its nitrogen inhibitor. Tim Fulton reports. 

ECO-N was introduced to the market on Lincoln University’s dairy research farm in February 2004, Ravensdown’s Richard Christie reminded farmers at the same spot on Thursday. . .

Irrigation company establishment board announced:

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has announced that experienced director Alison Paterson will oversee the establishment of a new Crown company to invest in irrigation.

The new company, which is to be established by 1 July, will act as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure development, with $80 million to be set aside in Budget 2013.

“I’m pleased to have people of high quality and balance to work on what is a critical area of New Zealand’s growth,” says Mr Guy.

“Well-designed storage and irrigation infrastructure has the potential to deliver a major boost to our primary industries and support new jobs, which will have a flow-on effect for all New Zealanders. If current proposals are advanced there could be another 420,000 hectares of irrigated land available over time. . . .

Surprise at lack of interest in carbon credit trading:

Associate Professor Euan Mason of Canterbury University is surprised more hill country farmers are not showing an interest in carbon credit trading as they stand to boost their incomes while at the same time helping the environment.

Professor Mason said he is perplexed that some farmers have a negative attitude towards carbon trading and the climate change issue. . .


Reputation relies on trust

January 25, 2013

The announcement that traces of DCD have been found in milk is concerning but the way it has been handled is exemplary.

There is no food safety risk but the two fertiliser companies which use products with DCD have immediately suspended sales.

This media release from Ravensdown explains the issue:

Ravensdown announces today that, with immediate effect, it is suspending the sales and application of its eco-n product which contains DCD.

“The reputation of New Zealand as a quality food producer is as important to us as it is to our farmer owners. So it is reassuring that both the MPI’s and our own peer-reviewed research shows there are no food safety issues with DCD or eco-n,” comments Greg Campbell Ravensdown Chief Executive. “What’s changed is that last year, organisations like the US Food and Drug Administration added DCD to a list of substances to test for. This, combined with increasingly sophisticated scanning technology now presents a possible trade risk. Given the risk to NZ’s dairy export reputation, Ravensdown has taken the initiative and is suspending the single product which uses DCD for this calendar year.”

“As DCD has been used safely around the world for 30 years, there has never been a set of international standards around maximum residue level in food products. Because no standard exists for DCD, no detectable presence is acceptable. And because zero detection of DCD cannot be guaranteed, Ravensdown has taken the responsible, voluntary step to suspend its use while the trade issues are resolved,” added Greg.

In December last year, the Ministry for Primary Industries initiated a working party to assess the use of dicyandiamide (DCD) on farm land. The working group comprises representatives from MPI, Fonterra, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and fertiliser companies Ravensdown and Ballance.

The working group was set up after testing on whole milk powder detected the occasional presence of low levels of DCD coinciding with the times of the year that the product is applied.

DCD, which is applied to pasture in autumn, winter and spring, has been used to reduce nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand for nearly a decade.

“Though this news is disappointing for the 500 customers who use eco-n, the potential risk demanded decisive and pre-emptive action ahead of the autumn application season,” said Ravensdown’s Greg Campbell.

Even without eco-n, Ravensdown continues to help farmers lift their production and lower their environmental footprint. The farmer-owned co-operative does this through whole-farm testing, nutrient management planning and advice plus precise fertiliser application.

“We continue to help farmers produce top quality food and do all we can to support New Zealand’s export story in a complex world of international trading partners and regulations. We’ll be foregoing sales of eco-n, which makes up about 1% of Ravensdown’s annual revenues, but we are a 100% farmer-owned co-operative concerned with the long-term future of the rural sector,” added Greg Campbell.

“In the long-term, mitigating nitrate leaching is vital for sustainable New Zealand farming. The effectiveness of nitrification inhibitors like DCD is well proven and helps farmers in the face of stricter requirements being imposed on them. So we’ll be looking to the Ministry for Primary Industries through the working party to initiate the potentially-lengthy process of seeking a new international standard to recognise DCD. This would then specify a level or maximum residue which New Zealand dairy exporters and producers could work below,” concluded Greg.

Ballance’s media release says more research is the key:

More research is the key to developing nitrification inhibitors which help farmers reduce environmental impacts while meeting potential international trade requirements, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Research and Development Manager Warwick Catto said today.

His comments follow the voluntary suspension of sales and application of the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD) on farmland in response to the detection of the occasional presence of low levels of DCD in dairy products. Both major fertiliser co-operatives have announced the suspension until further notice.

“We still have every confidence in the potential for nitrification inhibitors to play an important role in helping New Zealand farmers to operate within nutrient loss limits.

“While our nitrification inhibitor product DCn has been a small part of our portfolio we remain confident that continued research will result in the development of a nitrification inhibitor solution which delivers environmental benefits, meets international requirements and is supported by robust science.”

Mr Catto said Ballance had not sold DCn since July 2012 and had not promoted its use on pastures since late 2010. This means that only a handful of Ballance customers have recently used the product. As a precautionary measure Ballance will not reintroduce any DCD-based products to the market until the potential international trade issue of milk residues is mitigated.

Ballance ceased sales of DCn in early spring 2012 to review the product and its applications, and incorporated it into its $32 million research and development programme aimed at reducing nutrient and greenhouse gas losses through more efficient fertilisers and next generation nitrification inhibitors.

“This is in line with our science-based approach and emphasis on continual evolution of our product and service offerings to meet the needs of New Zealand farmers.

“Our research is partially funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries through their Primary Growth Partnership and our work on nitrification inhibitor developments will take into account potential international trade concerns regarding residues in milk products,” says Mr Catto.

Mr Catto says that Ballance strongly supports all moves to protect New Zealand’s reputation for quality food and believes that all products used in food production must be backed by sound science and ongoing research.

Fonterra backs the suspension:

“We have been assured by New Zealand’s regulatory authority – the Ministry for Primary Industries – that there is no food safety risk.  However, DCD residues in agricultural products may present a future trade issue,” said Managing Director Co-operative Affairs Todd Muller.

“Although DCD was a promising option for reducing nitrate leaching, it is critical that New Zealand’s trade reputation is preserved.  The voluntary suspension is the responsible approach in the absence of any internationally agreed standards for DCD residues in food,” said Mr Muller.

Fonterra will participate in a working group set up by the Ministry for Primary Industries to examine what the suspension means in terms of the future use of DCD in farming, including the impact on water quality requirements.

Not all countries have the strict regulatory and testing standards for food safety that New Zealand does.

Some countries that do test food might hide results that didn’t suit them.

The companies have acted correctly in promptly suspending sales of products with DCD.

It’s about trust.

New Zealand relies on our reputation for high standards of food safety and that reputation relies on trusting that everything possible is done to keep food safe and taking a precautionary approach, even as in this case, there is no risk to consumers.

Products with DCD, a nitrification inhibitor, have been applied with fetiliser to pasture and forage crops to target urine, dung and fertiliser emissions. They can improve water quality, reduce production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and increase pasture growth.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,163 other followers

%d bloggers like this: