Rural round-up

What drought really means for New Zealand: Jacqueline Rowarth:

As we head into another drier-than-normal season, New Zealand needs to put more thought into water management.

Urban rain and rural rain are different. The quality is the same – drops of water that, in New Zealand, fall out of the sky relatively pure – but interpretation of the quantity is very different.

Urban rain stops barbecues, dampens the washing on the line, and slows the traffic as though rain had never been experienced before. It interrupts activities for humans, but makes little difference to the ability of plants to grow, rivers to flow or dams to fill.

Rural rain does all three. Rural rain soaks into the ground. It reaches roots and allows the micro-organisms to function. When there is rain in sufficient quantity, primary production, and hence the export economy, flourishes. . .

Stead’s mission to help farmers – Sally Rae:

Angela Stead knows how to cook a good lamb roast.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s new extension manager for the central South Island not only has a passion for farming, she is also a trained chef.

Miss Stead started work last month, having returned from Australia where she had been working in the dairy industry and was looking forward to a new challenge. . .

ANZCO share sale bid:

ANZCO Foods founder and chairman Sir Graeme Harrison aims to reduce his shareholding in the company, while Japan’s Itoham Foods is looking to increase its stake.

Itoham Foods would increase its shareholding from 48.3% to 65% if its purchase offer was accepted by other shareholders and approved by the Overseas Investment Office.

In issuing notice to the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Itoham said it would buy 9,882,113 shares of ANZCO stock in cash transactions of just over $40 million. ANZCO has annual sales revenue of $1.3 billion. . .

Try the Dutch approach to dairy and use barns – Aalt Dijkhuizen:

New Zealand and the Netherlands are world leaders in dairy.

New Zealand has developed a unique, extensive dairy system with a low cost price. The Netherlands has gained a reputation for highly productive and efficient dairy farming using the latest technologies. Can the two countries develop systems that will satisfy growing demand while being more environmentally sustainable?

The global context of agriculture and food is changing dramatically.

Demand from fast-growing economies in Asia is expected to double over the next decades and there will be increasing scarcity of raw materials and land. To be leaders in green dairy New Zealand and the Netherlands should work together and learn from each other – and make the boat go much faster. . .

Culverden farmer elected to Beef +Lamb NZ board:

Culverden farmer Phil Smith has been elected as the farmer director to represent sheep and beef farmers in the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Northern South Island electorate.

Smith received 6916 weighted votes and Nigel Harwood of Takaka received 5749 weighted votes in the recent election.

Beef + Lamb NZ returning officer Warwick Lampp said the voting return percentage for Northern South Island was 25.88%, being 795 returned voting papers. . .

Farmers disappointed by restrictions in proposed drone rules – Karl Plume and P.J. Huffstutter:

U.S. farmers hoping to use drones to locate lost livestock or monitor trouble spots in their fields were disappointed by what they say are overly restrictive commercial drone rules proposed Sunday by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Two of the long-awaited draft rules were singled out for particular criticism: a requirement that pilots remain in visual contact with their drones at all times and a height restriction that limits the crafts to flying no more than 500 feet above ground.  These constraints, farmers and drone operators say, would limit a drone’s range – and consequently its usefulness.

    Leading drone makers PrecisionHawk and Trimble Navigation Limited (TRMB.O), farm data services firms, including ones run by Monsanto (MON.N) and FarmLogs, and even some federal lawmakers are saying the proposed rules could delay the development of drone-assisted agriculture in the United States if they are finalized as currently written.

The FAA said farmers can address the line-of-sight limitation by placing spotters to track a drone’s pilot. . .

84 Responses to Rural round-up

  1. robertguyton says:

    “As we head into another drier-than-normal season, New Zealand needs to put more thought into water management.”

    Yes, Ele, but the answer is HUMUS, not DAMS.


  2. TraceyS says:

    The answer is humus AND dams.

    See, we almost agree!


  3. farmerbraun says:

    It’s far more than just humus and dams: I am sure that you will both agree. Certainly a consistent supply of water is critical to maximising humus formation but water has other values as well.

    I do doubt Rowarth’s contention of there being a drier than normal season.
    I wonder what she thinks the average season over the last 60 years looks like.

    That is not to say that it is not dry on the East Coast but there were very few , if any, dairy farms there 60 years ago.
    In fact back then it was reckoned that the Waikato and Taranaki were the only regions that were obviously suitable for dairying. Other regions were decidedly marginal.


  4. Mr E says:

    Both organic matter production and decay of said material need water.

    Now water = no humus


  5. farmerbraun says:

    The real point is that sustainable agriculture always has something in reserve : Pita Alexander (the farm accountant) has been banging on about this for 40 years or so.

    He derived that conclusion from analysis of the difference between the top 10% of his farming clients , and the rest of them.

    It doesn’t matter what the reserve is ; it can be a couple of hundred grand in the bank , sufficient silage for ,say, six months of feeding; or a couple of barns full of hay , and a silo of grain ; or a dam full of water.
    The point is , it is a reserve ; something that you don’t use every year , and you always have it.

    Very few farmers have this practise , because their financial situation is so dire that they can’t afford to put the reserves away ; they need the cash flow right now , or yesterday.


  6. robertguyton says:

    “Both organic matter production and decay of said material need water. No water = no humus”

    Rain. Groundwater. Humus.

    No need to dam to produce humus.
    No need at all.


  7. robertguyton says:

    “The point is , it is a reserve ; something that you don’t use every year , and you always have it.”

    Humus. It’s a reserve that hosts water like nothing else can, in the soil, away from the sun, in enormous quantities.
    Farmers should be paid for the humus they add to their soil.
    Humus holds minerals like no other system can. It’s the perfect reserve.
    Don’t destroy your humus. Build humus for humanity’s sake and for you own benefit.
    Don’t use glyphosate, or any herbicide for that matter. No molloscicides, no nematodoids, no pesticides, no rodenticides – no antibiotics ‘coz you see, those are humusicides and anti-life and life is what farmers should be promoting.


  8. robertguyton says:

    And it is carbon taken from the atmosphere. Carbon! Sequestered in the soils of your farm, how good is that!! You should be paid to do that, it’s the most important thing to do. And there’s no limit to how much you can make. That could be, given the right Government, the future of farming – profit from humus production. You can have your animals and crops too, of course – carbon farming is a bonus just waiting to be realised.


  9. farmerbraun says:

    Shallow stony soils in typical summer conditions produce no humus without added water.


  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    I agree with farmerbraun that we should be farming to the environment we are in rather than forcing farming onto an unsuitable one. Enhancing the environment by natural means as suggested by Robert also makes sense, as has been proved by the likes of Doug Avery and Bruce Wills.

    Irrigation is a solution, but given that it takes around 1000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk, we do need to look at ways of limiting the need of an already stretched resource. Industrial farming has its limits.


  11. robertguyton says:

    Farmerbraun – then produce them at times when there is sufficient water to do so, and discover how well they retain that water and make it available to plants during those “typical summer conditions”.
    It’s not rocket science.
    Do you know how to make humus? It takes more than just running some cows over that “shallow, stony soil”.
    Ya gotta have the fungi and bacteria for the job, for starters and much of that wonderful payload has been systematically destroyed in New Zealand.
    How much water, do you suppose, farmerbraun, can be held in a cubic metre of humus-rich soil?


  12. robertguyton says:

    Oh, and making humus is easy.
    You should be paid to do it. If ever there was a case for a Government subsidy/grant/loan, humus-building is it!


  13. Willdwan says:

    So why are the ‘organic’ farms around here just as dry and short as everyone else then?


  14. robertguyton says:

    Because they haven’t made humus at the rate that’s needed. In any case, think about this, Will – imagine if the money that’s being sunk into building dams and water-storage was given instead to farmers who increased their humus content – no more supper-expensive infrastructure needed to pump water – it’s there on your land, in your soil and you were paid to put it there.
    Good, Will? Or not?


  15. Willdwan says:

    I would need to see a practical example of someone achieving this miracle on a large scale. With a realistic stocking rate, not some lifestyle block with a pony, a sick sheep and a goat named Boris.


  16. TraceyS says:

    Robert is no doubt referring to sabbatical fallowing.

    That + his idea of public money being “given to farmers” to increase soil hummus = the taxpayer paying farmers to destock.

    Am I correct Robert?

    If so (I am giving you the opportunity to correct me), why on this earth should the taxpayer pay farmers to sell capital stock, the proceeds from which the taxpayer will benefit minimally if at all?

    I shake my head once again, Robert, and am left wondering which side of the political spectrum you are really on. Based on your comments above, to the right of me!


  17. robertguyton says:

    What miracle, Will? It’s natural to have grassland supported from below with masses of humus – isn’t your farm like that??
    Surely you know about the American prairies?

    TraceyS – wrong, I am not referring to sabbatical fallowing. When will you ever learn to stop putting words into the mouths of others??? Perhaps you could, you know, ask…
    No, TraceyS, you are not correct. Your whole response is nothing more than a reflection of your own misguided, prejudicial thinking. I wonder why you even bother to engage.
    What silliness.


  18. farmerbraun says:

    It depends what you mean by organic Willdwan.
    If you mean that the farm has certified organic status , that in itself means only that the farm has a third party verified quality assurance and traceability system.
    Around here , the organic farm is relatively green and growing because it doesn’t calve in spring and so has much higher residual dry matter because it has just started calving and cows are being supplemented with grass silage to prevent overgrazing.
    Longer rotations and higher covers in summer used to be the norm to reduce soil moisture loss.
    What I am saying is that certified organic status does not say much about sustainability.


  19. Mr E says:

    Too much humus,
    Very bad at water holding – very drought susceptible.
    Very poor at nutrient release and holding of some nutrients
    Very susceptible to problem insect damage
    Very susceptible to wind erosion

    Anyone who questions this, only needs to find a farmer with peat soils. They will tell you the curse of too much humus.

    I have never seen a dry land farmer with too much humus. So what Robert describes is both unnatural and illogical in that rapid humus development requires water both to create the organic matter and to decompose it.


  20. TraceyS says:

    “Perhaps you could, you know, ask…

    Yep. I have previously, you know, asked… Many a time!

    But you have a habit of stopping short of full answers and I am being very polite in my description of your past behaviour.

    “If ever there was a case for a Government subsidy/grant/loan, humus-building is it!”

    Then make your “case”, sunshine, and stop farting around. You’re suggesting my taxpayer dollar be gifted to farmers as a subsidy. I’m thinking; this better be bloody good.

    So make your case. How shall farmers spend taxpayer dollars to increase hummus in their soils? What will they be expected to do with the money? For there must surely be expectations when handing out hard-earned taxpayer cash.


  21. RBG says:

    1.1 billion a year gifted as tax cuts to the richest 10% by National. 1.3 billion a year taxpayer dollars subsidising private landlords. I think Robert Guyton might be suggesting including carbon sequestration in soil as part of the ETS. National has peverted the ETS to such an extent that last year they GAVE 165 million of NZ’s taxpayer dollars to large emitters of CO2. My taxpayer dollars being gifted to companies that emit lots of CO2. How about YOU make a case for that TraceyS, and it better be bloody good.


  22. robertguyton says:

    “Too much humus,
    Very bad at water holding – very drought susceptible.
    Very poor at nutrient release and holding of some nutrients
    Very susceptible to problem insect damage
    Very susceptible to wind erosion”

    Mr E – please learn what humus is, before making a complete fool of yourself – oh! Too late!


  23. robertguyton says:

    And Tracey – “hummus”???

    And this is a farming blog!

    Lord, give me patience.
    Your use of “sunshine” when addressing someone on the “other side of the house” is straight from John Key’s “Handbook of Arrogance” and represents a low point for you, as it does for the smarmy PM when he uses it in what should be a forum for rational debate.


  24. TraceyS says:

    Still no substance, Robert.

    It was a pretty straightforward question and it deserved a straightforward answer. But this is something that has repeatedly proved difficult for you in this forum.

    “Sunshine” was not meant to offend you. Quite the contrary. I should actually be quite keen on your humus-building-for-cash idea. It might well benefit me. So what will the expectations be for receiving your proposed grant/subsidy for building humus? What will I need to do to justify receipt of such a grant or subsidy? What expectation will there be for how the money is spent?

    I am all ears. Your turn now…


  25. RBG says:

    A ‘substance free’ comment from you too TraceyS. You appeared to want to know what taxpayers would get out of a subsidy for building more humus. If humus building sequesters carbon, then taxpayers (and future generations) would get far more value from that than subsidising the lifestyles of the top 10% or paying high CO2 emitters tens of millions. So Sunshine, how about justifying that use of taxpayer dollars. Or do you just expect others to answer your questions and ignore theirs?


  26. robertguyton says:

    Tracey. You are concerned about “hummus”.
    Herre’s my answer to your concerns.

    While you are up-skilling, may I just say, “Good grief”.

    Thank you.


  27. robertguyton says:

    And my proposal was not to give farmers money in the expectation that they will build humus in their soils, but a fair and justified reward for doing so. You create the humus and get paid for your efforts. I’m surprised and disappointed at your reluctance to take up the offer.
    Seems stupid to me, but there you go.


  28. TraceyS says:

    Robert makes much of a typo for someone who makes plenty himself and then complains bitterly when others make fun of it.


  29. TraceyS says:

    “You create the humus and get paid for your efforts.”

    Create – how?

    Paid – how?

    You’ve clarified that you’re not suggesting sabbatical fallowing. Then what? You surely have methods in mind. Why aren’t you prepared to detail them?

    Maybe you’ve got a really bad cold like Natalie Bennett.


  30. robertguyton says:

    Tracey – my genuine, well meaning attempts to discuss the value of humus and the ways farmers could profit from making it (simple process) have deteriorated into a ridiculous slanging match (thanks for that) so I’ll bugger off and leave you to it. I’ve a greenhouse to build for my wife.


  31. TraceyS says:

    If you can’t provide the substance to back up your proposal for giving taxpayer funds to farmers in exchange for humus-building, then good riddance to you, sensitive one!


  32. Willdwan says:

    He seems awfully cagey about how this “simple process” actually works. My guess is it would be “supper-expensive.”


  33. Mr E says:

    Robert won’t explain his theory, I predict, and I wonder if it is because he knows it won’t work. Humus production requires water. Ask any dry-land farmer, excess organic matter simply becomes ‘thatch’ without lots of water. Thatch,is a big problem for dry land farmers.


  34. robertguyton says:

    Will and Mr E are correct – I proposed the production of humus by farmers, earning them deserved money credits from the Government and the eternal gratitude of every New Zealander, knowing full well that it is impossibly expensive and complicated and can’t be done.
    As you were, gentlemen, carry on with your excellent farming practice and take no notice of a know-nothing, head-in-the-clouds non-farmer. IOOH.




  35. Willdwan says:

    Robert, you are obviously proposing radical de-stocking which would have all kinds of effects. You could try learning about facial excema. And what would this do to the country’s finances? Another problem, Kiwis just won’t pay subsidies, which is how your weird scheme would be viewed. Yeah, I think I’ll carry on.


  36. Name Withheld says:

    Once again Mr Guyton flounces off in a sulk, miffed that once again the rest of the world fails to recognise his genius.
    He will not be missed.


  37. robertguyton says:

    No, Will, no, no, no, I’m not.
    (Give me patience, Lord).
    Will and Mr E, (Tracey too, though, who cares?), I’m loathe to try to teach my Grandmother to suck eggs, but do you even know what “humus” is?
    It’s not “thatch”, or raw organic matter, as Mr E seems to believe. Humus is carbon at it’s purest form. It’s black. It’s under the surface of the soil. It can hold water through it’s molecular charge, like no other substance. It can hold minerals like no other substance. It’s incredibly cheap to produce. There is only gain to pasture production when humus-building processes are employed. It requires no reduction in stock numbers.
    I weep when I think of the reception here to this idea. I really do.
    No matter. There are many, many farmers who do know what humus is and does. I have just spent 4 days in their company and saw evidence of many, many, many farmers around the world (South Africa in particular – who’d have thought???) that know where the future of farming sits. Might I politely suggest you take a gander at this:
    or perhaps this:

    Click to access NSP000028_Tichinin_Phyllis_Evidence_Dr%20Phil%20Schofield_Petit%20on%20Humics.pdf


  38. robertguyton says:

    I’m miffed, Name, because “the rest of the world” seems not to know what humus is.
    Do you, perchance?
    It’s not a difficult concept.


  39. robertguyton says:

    “Supper” expensive. “Hummus”.



  40. TraceyS says:

    OK, Robert, so digging through one of your links I found the basic information I was looking for:

    “Practices such as crop rotation, using balanced fertilization programs, planting legumes, plowing under green manures, returning organic matter to the land, applications of compost, and using minimum tillage practices can all help build humus.”

    “Humus building practices are slow, time consuming, and may be costly, however they pay large dividends over time. In order to rapidly return many damaged soils to their former productive capacity growers should consider additional alternatives. An analysis of this situation indicates that the most rapid and practical solution to improving soil fertility is the addition of humates (mined humic substances) directly to the soil or as foliar fertilizers.”

    So I just want to get this straight; you want the Government to pay farmers for building humus. Building humus requires doing things which consume rather significant amounts of fossil fuel, eg. planting and ploughing under a green crop. Not to mention the possibility of farmers using products of the coal mining industry to achieve more rapid gains.

    I am all for improving soil humus and would be happy if the country supported an initiative to pay me for building it (although I would not expect that). But I can’t help thinking that there is conflict here with the need, urgent say some, to reduce fossil fuel use.

    If I am wrong about there being any such conflict, perhaps you might describe how humus can be built up in the soil without the use of tractors to plant and work in green crops, return organic matter to the land, apply compost, etc? It all seems very easy when working with a half-acre block but what about hundreds or thousands of acres?


  41. robertguyton says:

    “perhaps you might describe how humus can be built up in the soil without the use of tractors to plant and work in green crops, return organic matter to the land, apply compost”

    Yeah, it can be, no sweat, by multiplying certain soil organisms, that’s what they do, but will I?
    Nah, don’t think I will – lost interest in trying to interest Homies in the (good) idea.


  42. TraceyS says:

    And that brings us back full-circle to the matter of water, or perhaps more accurately, moisture. Multiplying soil organisms for humus development is going to be much easier to achieve under moist conditions. If dams can be used to consistently achieve the right conditions then why wouldn’t we use them?

    For the record, Robert, I never said it wasn’t a good idea to build humus. There were two parts to your idea though – the other being paying farmers to do it. I don’t agree with that.

    The activities described in your link are already tax deductible business expenditure and I think that is enough. Especially if you are correct and building humus leads (eventually) to a ‘capital’ increase in soil quality.


  43. robertguyton says:

    Righty-O then.


  44. Mr E says:

    “Humus is carbon at it’s purest form”

    Wow Robert, you have astounded me. Humus is carbon. Carbon must not be carbon. It must be humus!



  45. Willdwan says:

    That occurred to me too Mr E. I thought it best not to belabour the point.

    I did one of those kit-set greenhouses for my old Mum once. The damn thing left me a bit tetchy too.


  46. TraceyS says:

    That is rubbish of course. It is actually the lack of an identifiable chemical structure which identifies humus.


  47. TraceyS says:

    Just as an aside, if you’re still listening Robert, tonight I’m cooking mushrooms from the farm. First time. They love humus eh? Must be doing something right.

    And no, I’m not angling for a grant, subsidy, or loan!


  48. Mr E says:

    Of course we have heard all this weirdness before.
    This from Dr Doug Edmeades.

    The second NZ Soil Carbon Conference was held at Te Papa, Wellington in September 2010. It was organized by Nicole Masters of Integrity Soils with keynote speakers Prof. Tim Flannery and Dr Christine Jones, both from Australia. The conference blurb stated, “This conference showcases an innovative system that is rapidly growing throughout the world; which not only reduces pressure on the environment while increasing food quality, but also has the potential to mitigate greenhouse gases.”
    So what is this innovative system that is rapidly growing? It is of course the organic movement in a new guise. For years they have yearned for credibility and because science has not obliged them, they now indulge in the political game with their three card trick: food quality, environmentalism and now climate change.
    We know from science that organic food is not better than conventional food (see earlier article in this issue) and that organic farming methods per se do not reduce nitrate leaching and P runoff – the environmental foot-print (see Fertiliser Review No 4 and 18). But what about climate change and greenhouse gases – where do they fit in with the Organic Movement?
    Dr Christine Jones has established the Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme. She believes that by changing our farming practices (i.e. going organic) will result in more carbon being sequestered in the soil (stored on the soil organic matter), thus mopping up some of the “excess” carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In her mind, going organic will save the planet from dangerous warming. By hitching their wagon to climate change alarmism they seem to believe that their time has come – now they will be taken seriously?
    A lengthy review entitled, “Soil Carbon Sequestration under Pasture in Australian Dairy Regions” has recently been published. It summarizes the ‘state of play’ on this issue in Australia. This is what they record in respect to Dr Jones: “There is uncertainty at the moment about the quality of Christine Jones’ field measurements, data processing and interpretation of experimental results relating to soil carbon.” And, “Jones apparently has not written any peer reviewed publications in soil science journals. She is not an accredited expert in soil science; her PhD was in agronomy.” They graciously add, “….her views may prove valid under some circumstances.”
    One thing we can be certain about is that those circumstances are unlikely to be in New Zealand. Why? Because our developed pastoral soils now have plenty of carbon (in the organic matter). Typically our pastoral soils contain about 10% C – they are lucky to have 1% in Australian soils. More importantly, most of our pastoral soils have reached an equilibrium, which is determined by the climate and soil group – it is simply not possible to increase soil carbon levels any further no matter how hard we try (see Fertiliser Review 20). Thus, the opportunity for New Zealand farmers to increase soil carbon levels is limited to those few farmers who have forgotten about including a clover-based pasture in their crop rotation and have, as a consequence, mined down the soil organic matter. And to put that in perspective, it takes about 60 to 80 years of continuous cropping to reduce the carbon content from about 6% down to 2%.
    There is another problem which the Australian Report highlights which the Organic Movement appears not to recognize; that is the cost of accumulating soil carbon. Soil organic matter is not just carbon. It also contains N, P and S. To sequester carbon in the soil, the other component nutrients, N, P and S must also be added. For our soils every tonne of carbon in the soil requires about 100 kg N, and 15 kg of P and S which are worth about $180. There is no free lunch at Mother Natures house!
    All of this over-trumps the Organic Movement’s third trick. The opportunity for NZ farmers to sequester carbon in the soil and hence reduce carbon dioxide is not a Kiwi option, and even if it were, it is an expensive option.”


  49. Name Withheld says:

    But…but…but! Dr Doug is a SCEPTIC, Me E.
    All the same..Well played sir!.


  50. robertguyton says:

    Yeah, load of rubbish – I’m with you, guys! Full steam ahead!


  51. Mr E says:

    Well that was easy then.


  52. farmerbraun says:

    “describe how humus can be built up in the soil without the use of tractors to plant and work in green crops, return organic matter to the land, apply compost, etc?”

    Easy; leave it in permanent pasture and graze it with a suitable variety of animals.
    Once in a blue moon apply a little bit of fertiliser, say every 5 years or so, mainly phosphorus sulphur and potassium
    Lime occasionally.
    Graze it in such a way as to maintain diversity of plant species.

    If you are not getting 20 or more years out of a pasture then review your management; 50 years is quite achievable.


  53. Mr E says:

    Let me guess FB, what you describe is your own system?

    I wonder if Robert also attempts to describe his own system.


  54. robertguyton says:

    Humus in soils is destroyed by applied nitrogen.
    Humus in farm soils is destroyed when herbicides are applied to the ground.
    Ploughing destroys humus by exposing it to oxidating elements of sunlight and oxygen.
    Mycorrhizal fungi builds humus. Fungicides destroy … fungi.
    When applying nitrogen, carbon must be applied also, as nitrogen-hungry bacteria will eat humus if you’ve not provided them with extra carbon. This can easily be done.
    There are many practices that promote the formation of humus.
    Learning what those are and applying them the farm elevates the farmer to hero. Presently, farmers do not enjoy such recognition. Governments should (and soon will, in my view) promote and support humus production on every farm. Every backyard and council-run operation too (composting wastes, sewerage, etc) Farmers and farming are the key to reining-in global heating. It’s ironic but true. On behalf of all humans, start making humus. May as well get in early. You know it’s coming. Learn how to make humus in your soils. Even Farmerbraun, ahead of the game by what I’ve read of his practices, is just playing with humus production. Time to get serious. Time too, to get paid for it.
    I’m astonished by the response here, that says farmers shouldn’t be paid with taxpayer money for building humus in their soils. You all seem happy that millions of dollars of taxpayer money is being paid for a referendum on the flag. You seem happy that millions of dollars of taxpayer money is being paid to hold a by-election resulting from awful behaviour from a National Party MP. You seem happy that millions of dollars of taxpayer money is being spent on irrigation schemes that directly benefit groups of farmers, but when it’s suggested that all humus-producing farmers be rewarded for their work, you say no, they mustn’t. Seems to me exceptionally “unpatriotic” and self-defeating.
    Such is the Homepaddock.


  55. TraceyS says:

    “Mycorrhizal fungi builds humus…[t]here are many practices that promote the formation of humus. Learning what those are and applying them the farm elevates the farmer to hero.

    Enough mushrooms to fill the ute last night – from one small paddock. Thanks for the hero label, Robert. much nicer than ditz, denier, frothy, exploiter, etc.

    Still don’t expect the taxpayer to cough up though.

    Your suggestion they should is just obscene!


  56. TraceyS says:

    Oops, I am loathe to point out that you missed a little *to* in there.

    Shall I try to make a fool of you? Nah, will give it a miss on this lovely sunny Sunday in favour of more mature behaviour.


  57. Mr E says:

    Your ideas fail many tests.

    Humus needs nitrogen during it’s process of creation.
    Herbicides can help create humus, when dead material is cycled into the soil
    Ploughing is often used to incorporate stubble in attempts to build up organic matter and humus in the soil.
    Carbon isn’t always required to be applied when nitrogen is applied. If carbon is present at a ratio of greater than 12:1 then all is well.

    I love this statement “Time to get serious. Time too, to get paid for it.”

    Funny, funny stuff.


  58. robertguyton says:

    You have proved you no nothing about the topic, Mr E.

    Nothing at all.


  59. TraceyS says:

    “Herbicides can help create humus, when dead material is cycled into the soil”

    They can indeed. They can also do harm as Robert has pointed out. It is all about balance – like most things in life.

    Where the greater balance of activities on a farm are promoting of microbial life then herbicides are broken down much faster in the environment (I could provide references). Without wanting to promote specific ones, some are also less impacting on microbial life than others and for shorter timeframes. We use herbicides but judiciously, and as I have said before, I definitely prefer working paddocks rather than broadcast application of herbicide and direct drilling. Once all the vegetation is dead if there follows a big dry period the microbial life is going to get hammered. Ploughing, done at the right time and with the required skill, will provide food and moisture for microbes from the upturned turf if the weather turns dry for a long period.

    Most farmers would want to improve their soil I think and have the know-how to do it. But timing can’t always be perfect. For example, getting contractors there to do the work at the perfect time, where they don’t have their own machinery, or having the money available at the time to pay for it. And the weather is so difficult to accurately predict which can throw off course even the best of planning. Water storage could definitely help even out some of the variability.

    Having taken the approach of building up microbes both at home and at the farm, they key thing I’ve observed is the importance of consistently moist soil. Once things dry out I suspect that most beneficial microbes either die or bugger off somewhere else. When favourable conditions return there is a risk that repopulation might occur with less favourable or even pathogenic organisims. So it is worth protecting what you have it if is working well. Dams can help with this. And I don’t just mean for irrigation. In some places it makes more sense to use them to create multiple pockets of wetter habitat where healthy microbial and plant life will still flourish even if the areas in between have dried out. Water can be used for stock purposes which is supporting of life also.

    Now, Robert, if you had suggested that the Government provided loans or grants of some kind to encourage these kind of developments on farms (eg. to help with fencing or planting) I would probably support you. This is because there would be demonstrable public benefits such as improving water quality. Even better, as I have suggested before, would be an alternative pathway for such projects in the RMA so that farmers are alleviated of some of the paperwork, headaches, cost and risk associated with the formal process. It is about time that there was greater recognition that not all development projects are created equal. Some are purely commercial, and some are largely environmental. Others are dual-purpose.

    I don’t think you should leap to conclusions about who knows what about humus. It is a complex substance and a complex topic. Other people may hold ‘secrets’ even if you don’t like their opinions generally or even their methods, or if their basic knowledge sounds, well, really basic (as mine probably does). You’ve indicated that I don’t know what humus is when in fact I see it every day when washing the soil off my veges. It’s the heavy black stuff that doesn’t want to go down the sink. It ain’t charcoal (because we haven’t added any) but it could be mistaken for such.

    I suspect you have lots of useful insight, Robert, but your efforts to impart it are always going to be hampered if someone has to first share your general political beliefs before you are prepared to listen to them open-mindedly.


  60. Mr E says:

    Additionally Tracey, herbicides help rid land of unsavoury weeds, weeds that will contribute to reduced forage production.
    There is a principle that states, generally what is good for above biomass production is also good for underground biomass production. Even basic technologies like chemical topping to remove Cali Thistles and Poa are good examples of techniques that help biomass production in the long run.

    Water, herbicides, ploughing and nitrogen can all be good for biomass production, and often are in NZ farm systems.

    There is plenty of research to show the benefits of both direct drilling and conventional cultivation. Some of it has Mr E written all over it. To put it simply each technique has pros and cons. Farmers are the best to judge what works on their soils, in their conditions and under their management.

    On farm humus production needs water – nothing is truer. Roberts constant denial, makes his expertise look questionable in my eyes.


  61. robertguyton says:

    I’m not even going to bother…


  62. Mr E says:

    Too easy.


  63. robertguyton says:

    Was it a fight?
    I came with genuine intent to be part of a progressive discussion.
    Wasn’t expecting to be told, “your idea fails many tests”, by someone whose knowledge seemed thinner than the humus on a Monsanto agent’s shoe.
    Anyhoo, rock on, E, your a winner!


  64. Mr E says:

    A fight? Where?

    You seem a little sensitive Robert. I question your ideas, and you throw your toys in a huff. Ending the discussion and spouting off like your genius is wasted here.

    Don’t you think that attitude is a little narcissistic?


  65. robertguyton says:

    Attitude? What attitude?
    (mirroring the passive/aggressive Mr E)

    Here’s something:
    “Farmers are the best to judge what works on their soils, in their conditions and under their management.”

    Sooooo…those well paid agricultural soil scientists and advisors are a waste of space, in your eyes, Mr E? Agronomists? Pffffft!

    And then there’s this: “Herbicides can help create humus, when dead material is cycled into the soil” Good Lord, preserve us from these loons. Yes, Mr E, they can. So can piling the dead bodies of kiwi chicks, ripped from their nests for the purpose – lovely humus mmmmmmm…but no, Mr E. Herbicides are not recommended agents for creating humus, in fact they are counter-productive. You know, they destroy many of the organisms that create humus. Awfully inconvenient for a conservative, pro-biocide ideologue like you, Mr E, but there it is. Please make an effort to catch up.


  66. robertguyton says:

    “Funny, funny stuff.”
    “Roberts constant denial, makes his expertise look questionable in my eyes.”
    “Your ideas fail many tests.”
    “Of course we have heard all this weirdness before.”
    “Robert won’t explain his theory, I predict, and I wonder if it is because he knows it won’t work.”
    “So what Robert describes is both unnatural and illogical”

    Mr E finishes with, “I question your ideas…”

    Questioned, that’s all I did Mummy, I just questioned!


  67. Mr E says:

    This is why I blog. The entertainment!

    “Yes, Mr E, they can. So can piling the dead bodies of kiwi chicks, ripped from their nests for the purpose”

    At least you admitted herbicides can help. A long side the humour.
    Wait a minute. “Herbicides are not recommended agents for creating humus, in fact they are counter-productive”

    Weird! I’m not sure if you are coming or going – do you know?

    “Questioned, that’s all I did Mummy, I just questioned”

    This is hilarious! Again you support my views, alongside humour.

    Great to have you back in the debate Robert. I’m really chuckling at your weird outbursts.

    Where to start? Here!

    “Sooooo…those well paid agricultural soil scientists and advisors are a waste of space, in your eyes, Mr E? Agronomists? Pffffft! ”

    No, some advisors are good as advising. Some scientists are good at sciencing – but farmers own the land, run the land and live and die of the decisions and risks they take.

    Lets imagine you as an advisor, nope, a scientist, nope – a guru, nope- maybe pseudo guru?, I’m sure you realise that if you expected a farmer to take every piece of advice you gave, you’d have some mistakes, and those would carry a lot of liability. Just imagine the potential court cases that could ensure from the possible humus promoting weedy mess strewn around Southland. Farmers can take advice, but ultimately the buck stops with them. Advisors can advise, scientist -science, but I think they should not make the decisions. Ultimately that is the farmers role. Farmers have big shoulders – think of all that weight next time you are admiring them.


  68. robertguyton says:

    That’s right, I was expecting, nay demanding that every farmer in creation should do as I tell them. Your ability to build a straw man then beat him to the ground is remarkable, Mr E.
    Utterly pointless, but remarkable.


  69. Mr E says:

    Straw man?
    I used an analogy to explain that advisors and scientist were not useless, that ultimately farmers were the best to judge what to do, after you raised the question and you call it a straw man?


  70. TraceyS says:

    “Was it a fight?”

    No, it didn’t look like a fight until then, Robert. I think Mr E meant that you give up easily. At least that is how I took it.

    You are right that herbicides affect microorganisms but many of the reactions are reversible. Not all, so this is where scientific research can be highly beneficial. This is the kind of thing that research can help farmers with – to reduce trial and error. There is some stuff that is found out more efficiently in the lab than the field. If a scientist said to me that X herbicide is associated with a. number of irreversible (negative) reactions and Y herbicide is associated with b. number then I would definitely be interested and would go for the one with fewer irreversible negative reactions.

    Entirely rejecting the use of herbicide is just not an option for many farmers, including us. The downsides are just too great. So we have to balance things as best we can – and I think we are doing doing quite well. Not perfect. But I see health and I smell health and I feel it too so I know that we are going in the right direction.

    If everyone stopped using herbicide just like that the research would dry up. Is this what we really want? I don’t think so. I’d prefer to seek knowledge than throw the baby out with the bathwater.


  71. robertguyton says:

    Yep, straw man, no question. “I’m sure you realise that if you expected a farmer to take every piece of advice you gave…” of course, I don’t but you go on to behave as though I do – that’s how “straw man” works, Mr E.
    Herbicides – good for humus! Pesticides too, Mr E? How about fungicides? Not a teensy bit concerned about their effect on soil fungi? No?
    Molluscicides then? Nematodicides? How about the Telar that gets sprayed onto those HT swedes, Mr E? Should we regard them as humus-builders? There are pro-biotics, Mr E and anti-biotics. You appear to laud the latter. Humus, if humus could vote, would raise it’s amorphous black hand for pro-biotics every time.


  72. robertguyton says:

    “If a scientist said to me that X herbicide is associated with a. number of irreversible (negative) reactions and Y herbicide is associated with b. number then I would definitely be interested…”
    Really, Tracey? Then you’d like to look at the science that is sounding alarm bells around glyphosate and read the recent works from those scientists who are ringing that bell, LOUD?
    Oh, and Telar’s active ingredient is banned in parts of China. Not Southland though.


  73. robertguyton says:

    “If everyone stopped using herbicide just like that the research would dry up. Is this what we really want? ”

    What would “dry up”?
    If herbicides were suddenly discontinued, research into land management would intensify significantly and immediately, wouldn’t it? Is this (immediate intensification of non-herbicide research) what I want? Of course it is!!!


  74. robertguyton says:

    Then there’s glomalin:
    (frm Wikipedia, for your edification.
    Glomalin eluded detection until 1992 because, “It requires an unusual effort to dislodge glomalin for study: a bath in citrate combined with heating at 250 F (121 C) for at least an hour…. No other soil glue found to date required anything as drastic as this.” – Sara Wright.[3]

    The specific protein glomalin has not yet been isolated and described.[4] However, glomalin-related soil proteins (GRSP) have been identified using a monoclonal antibody (Mab32B11) raised against crushed AMF spores. It is defined by its extraction conditions and reaction with the antibody Mab32B11.

    The discoverer of glomalin, Sara Wright, thinks the “glomalin molecule is a clump of small glycoproteins with iron and other ions attached… glomalin contains from 1 to 9% tightly bound iron…. We’ve seen glomalin on the outside of hyphae, and we believe this is how the hyphae seal themselves so they can carry water and nutrients. It may also be what gives them the rigidity they need to span the air spaces between soil particles.” Glomalin takes 7–42 years to biodegrade. The highest levels of glomalin were found in volcanic soils of Hawaii and Japan.[3]

    There is other circumstantial evidence to show that glomalin is of AM fungal origin. When AM fungi are eliminated from soil through incubation of soil without host plants, the concentration of GRSP declines. A similar decline in GRSP has also been observed in incubated soils from forested, afforested, and agricultural land[5] and grasslands treated with fungicide.[4] Concentrations of glomalin in soil are correlated with the primary productivity of an ecosystem.[6]

    The chemistry of glomalin-related soil protein (GRSP) is not yet fully understood, and the link between glomalin, GRSP, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi is not yet clear.[4][7] The physiological function of glomalin in fungi is also a topic of current research.[8]

    Glomalin-related soil proteins (GRSPs), along with humic acid, are a significant component of soil organic matter and act to bind mineral particles together, improving soil quality.[1][4] Glomalin has been investigated for its carbon and nitrogen storing properties, including as a potential method of carbon sequestration.[6][9]

    Glomalin is hypothesized to improve soil aggregate water stability and decrease soil erosion. A strong correlation has been found between GRSP and soil aggregate water stability in a wide variety of soils where organic material is the main binding agent, although the mechanism is not known.[4]


  75. robertguyton says:

    This bit, Tracey and Mr E, you might like to consider:
    “AM fungi are eliminated from soil through incubation of soil without host plants” when considering the widespread planting of brassicas, which don’t host arbuscular michorrizal fungi.


  76. robertguyton says:

    “It is glomalin that gives soil its tilth—a subtle texture that enables experienced farmers and gardeners to judge great soil by feeling the smooth granules as they flow through their fingers.
    Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, found living on plant roots around the world, appear to be the only producers of glomalin.”


  77. Mr E says:

    Umm Robert – there is no straw man. I said ‘imagine’ you weren’t supposed to take it literally. I was using a false example, to describe the point. I wasn’t trying to suggest any farmer would take your advice and run with it, or even consider it seriously. I would have thought that was obvious.

    As for telar – you have evidence that it affects humus? I’m all ears – where is it?

    You seem to be keen on fungi, in its role of forming humus – and Telar, has been shown to stimulate some fungi activity.

    More importantly i understand telar increases the yield of some varieties of brassica. More yield means less area cropped. Less of that humus destroying cultivation you seemed concerned about.


  78. TraceyS says:

    And then there is this:

    “New York City’s Central Park is as much of a melting pot as the rest of the city — even down at the microbial level. According to a study published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, there are more than 100,000 species of bacteria living in the park’s soil — and most of them are totally new to science.

    Hope springs eternal.

    I’m sorry if you didn’t know it ’till now.


  79. TraceyS says:

    “An up-scaling approach was used to evaluate the toxicity of nicosulfuron on the capacity of AM fungi to colonize maize rots and on the structure of the AM fungal community. The herbicide induced a significant reduction in the colonization capacity and in the richness of the AM fungal community only when repeatedly applied at dose rates x100 higher than the recommended. It is noteworthy that application of nicosulfuron at lower dose rates (x10 higher than the recommended or lower) did not induce alterations on AM fungal colonization and on the structure of the AM fungal community. The effects observed coincided with phytotoxicity of nicosulfuron on maize indicating that the effects on mycorrhization could be plant-driven. Molecular fingerprinting analyses, cloning and sequencing of all main AM fungal ribotypes led to the identification of key members of the mycorrhizal community which were able to colonize plant roots despite the high soil concentrations of nicosulfuron and the physiological stress of the host plant. Our study has major practical implications regarding the forthcoming revision of the regulatory framework for the assessment of the soil microbial toxicity of pesticides.”

    Karpouzasa, DG, Papadopouloua, E, Ipsilantisc, I, Friedeld, I, Petrice, I, Udikovic-Kolice, N, Djuricf,S, Kandelerg, E, Menkissoglu-Spiroudib, U, Martin-Laurentd, F. (2014). Effects of nicosulfuron on the abundance and diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi used as indicators of pesticide soil microbial toxicity. Ecological Indicators. Vol 39, April, pp. 44–53


    Some things are lost when humans intervene in nature (eg. using herbicides or ploughing soil) but not all is lost – obviously. It is wrong to act as though all is lost. For all we know, probiotic treatment may be all that is required to replace what is lost. This is a new field and we should see what benefits it brings.


  80. robertguyton says:

    Yay! Central Park is saved! Now, let’s do rural New Zealand!
    Telar is used with brassica seed, Mr E. Brassica don’t support arbuscular michorrizal fungi. Fields of Telar-supported brassicas lose their AMF, Mr E. Heard of any Southland farmers replacing the AMF they extinguished through their practices?

    Tracey said: “For all we know, probiotic treatment may be all that is required to replace what is lost. This is a new field and we should see what benefits it brings.”
    At last! You’ve stumbled into the “new field”. “For all we know”, indeed – much, in fact, is known. I’m genuinely encouraged that you seem to on the brink of personally knowing, Tracey. May I ask, what “probiotic treatments” do you propose? The application of fulmic acid, perhaps? The brewing of arbuscular michorriza-rich teas? The cessation of AMF-damaging glyphosate usage? Discouraging the practice of grazing grass too short – it significantly reduces the plants ability to photosynthesise and produce the sugars needed to feed its michorriza, thereby losing serious amounts of AMF and with it the glomalin I referred to above and with that the extraordinary services glomalin provides to soil and ultimately, us. Glomalin aggregates soil particles with an incredibly strong and persistent “glue”. Aggregates create a crumby soil ideal for agriculture. Those aggregates with their glomalin ‘case’ shelter carbon and keep it safe from leaching and the bacteria that seek to turn it into carbon dioxide and release it to the atmosphere. Etc…


  81. robertguyton says:

    From Jacqualine Rowarth’s “drought’ article:
    “To pay for the water storage and irrigation system, farmers have to increase productivity with more animals and or more crops, both of which are associated with increased fertiliser use. Increased fertiliser use has been associated with leakage into rivers, and nobody wants to despoil the environment.

    In addition, it is not yet clear whether the farmers who intensify to pay for water infrastructure actually make more money.”


  82. robertguyton says:

    And then, from the “comments” section:

    “You are suggesting that irrigation is beneficial because it encourages carbon sequestration, in the form of soil carbon. This argument does not hold water unless you can demonstrate that the amount of carbon sequestrated in the soil outweighs the CO2 emissions of the dairy industry.

    The dairy industry irrigates land to grow grass to feed cows who make milk. Fonterra’s milk tankers then release large amounts of CO2 as they drive 81 million kms a year, to collect the milk. Then Fonterra releases massive amounts of CO2 as it uses 5,500 gigawatt hours a year of mostly fossil fuel energy to take the water back out of the milk. This is not sensible use of either fossil fuels or water.”

    On top of that, I’d carbon sequestration may well be lessened in poorly prepared soils, that is those with little humus in the first place, those with poor regimes using herbicides etc. that destroy michorrisal fungi, those that hold too little moisture. Irrigation might help those soils sequester carbon, but only because of their poor state.


  83. TraceyS says:

    I’m glad you’re feeling encouraged, Robert. All of the problems you have raised are gradually solvable. That is my firm belief. With your new-found encouragement perhaps you can take a slightly more positive view of things. Go on, I encourage you…


  84. Mr E says:

    Robert –
    “Telar is used with brassica seed, Mr E. Brassica don’t support arbuscular michorrizal fungi. Fields of Telar-supported brassicas lose their AMF, Mr E. Heard of any Southland farmers replacing the AMF they extinguished through their practices?”

    So is Telar the problem in your eyes or Brassica? If it is brassica – as you seem to be angling – then less area sown would be a good thing?
    Have you seen what bad wild turnip, yar (spurry), shepherds purse can do to brassica crops? A Pahia farmer told me he doubled his yield using Telar. I guess he only needs to cultivate half the area to provide winter feed now.

    Imagine that Robert – Half the cultivation, half the diesel, half the wear and tear on machinery, giving it a much longer lifetime, potentially double, half the mechanical damage causes to humus, half the fertiliser use, half the seed required, halving – all the land that is used to create the seed – half of the diesel to create that seed – half the wear and tear on their machinery …… It seems exponential the benefits that Telar can make to the environment. I’m sure you will agree.


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