Rural round-up

12/11/2020

Agriculture will change but pastoral agriculture will survive and prosper – Keith Woodford:

Agriculture will change but pastoral agriculture will survive and prosper.  It is all about international competitive advantage, new technologies and managing the environment. It can be done but it won’t be easy.

One of the regular questions I am asked about is the future of pastoral agriculture. It reflects a perspective that, given the issues of water pollution, greenhouse gases and changing consumer attitudes, perhaps New Zealand’s pastoral agriculture belongs to the past rather than the future.

A good starting point for a response is to reflect as to why New Zealand developed as a pastoral-based economy. Nature blessed New Zealand with a temperate maritime climate combined with a hilly and mountainous topography that is well suited to pastoral agriculture, but much less suited to crop activities.

Compared to much of the world, New Zealand’s natural competitive edge still lies in pastoral sheep, beef and dairy.   In contrast, the economics of broad-acre cropping and vegetable production are challenging in an environment where flat land is limited and where rain can occur, or not occur, at any time. . .

Low methane sheep a reality :

New Zealand farmers are the first in the world with the ability to breed low methane-emitting sheep.

A breeding value for methane emissions was launched in November 2019. It was the outcome of a 10-year breeding programme funded by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGGRC) and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

AgResearch scientist Dr Suzanne Rowe has been leading the research programme and says for the past ten years, they have been running two closed flocks side-by-side, a low methane emitting flock and a high methane emitting flock. . . 

 

Science and agriculture well met – Yvonne O’Hara:

Combining genetics, parasitology and agriculture is a dream job for Dr Kathryn McRae.

She has worked for AgResearch at Invermay for the past six years and during that time has had several major genetic studies to her credit.

“I really enjoy the mix with the lab work with more practical hands-on work.”

She researched levels of pneumonia in sheep and oversaw the Invermay-based Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test (CPT). . . 

Plan to introduce insects to kill wasps :

The Tasman District Council wants to release two new wasp-killing insects to New Zealand.

It has applied on behalf of a wasp control action group to the Environmental Protection Authority, to release the wasp-nest beetle and a hoverfly.

The introduced insects would combat the invasive wasps that cost the country about $130 million a year in damage and control measures.

Wasps attack honeybees, butterflies, flies and spiders and can be harmful to people – sometimes seriously. . . 

Puro given licence to grow 10 hectares of medicinal cannabis:

Medical cannabis grower Puro has been granted a licence to plant 10 hectares of the crop.

Managing director of the Marlborough firm, Tim Aldridge, said it would plant more than 80,000 seeds and seedlings at Kēkerengū on the Kaikōura Coast.

Aldridge said the licence was in time to plant in spring. . .

Let’s have a more balanced debate on meat tax – Richard Young:

When it comes to talking about meat, and especially when discussing a tax on red meat, we must be careful to differentiate between livestock that are part of the problem and those that are part of the solution. While we agree that the polluter pays principle should be applied to food, and the sugar tax is a good example of this, there is a real problem with the blanket use of the term, ‘red meat’, which is freely used but is flawed on two counts. Firstly, it is generally used to refer to all ruminant meat, meat from pigs and all processed red meats.

This is irrational and misleading because these meats can be produced in very different ways which have very different impacts on nutrient composition and the environment. Secondly, in failing to differentiate between methods of production, the blanket use of the term ‘red meat’ is intellectually sloppy, creates confusion amongst the public and does more harm than good when used to advocate meat taxes. . . 

 


Rural round-up

28/11/2018

Sheep burping project given wheels – Sally Rae:

This is a tale of burping sheep.

Among the work AgResearch scientists have been doing to reduce methane emissions from agriculture is a project to breed sheep that naturally produce less methane – the gas released in the burps of ruminant livestock.

Having determined sheep could be bred for lower methane emissions, the project was now being rolled-out to farms, giving breeders the opportunity to measure and select sheep with lowered environmental impacts.

Scientists had been working on the prospect of low methane sheep for quite some time, AgResearch Invermay-based senior scientist Dr Suzanne Rowe said yesterday. . . 

Weather, labour stalls contractors – Ken Muir:

While the weather has meant a testing time for farmers and contractors in the south, labour issues continue to be a major constraint in keeping up with work on farms, Southland agricultural contractor Peter Corcoran says.

‘The weather has undoubtedly been better than last year and the recent variations we’ve had have caused some backlogs,” Mr Corcoran said.

”While this has been annoying, we are undoubtedly in much better shape than we were last year.”

At that stage, he said, contractors were sitting around with nothing to do, but at least this year things were off to an early start. . . 

 

Postharvest scientist honoured by NZIAHS:

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Jeremy Burdon has been awarded a Fellowship of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science in recognition of his longstanding contributions to postharvest science that supports New Zealand’s fresh fruit industries, particularly kiwifruit and avocado.

Dr Burdon is a leading postharvest scientist well respected by industry and academic peers. Over a career spanning 30 years, he has consistently demonstrated outstanding skills in innovative thinking and scientific excellence in partnering science with business. He is especially noted for the science underpinning the successful commercialisation of new kiwifruit cultivars and his practical advice to packhouse and coolstore operators. . . 

Vertical farming has limits:

Vertical farming – where food is grown indoors in high stacks – will not replace traditional fruit and vegetable growing in New Zealand, but it may supplement it in future if technology makes it economically viable, research released today finds.

As part of her Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, Horticulture New Zealand environmental policy advisor Rachel McClung has published a report, “Can vertical farming replace New Zealand’s productive land to deliver high quality fruits and vegetables in the future?”

“Growing towns and cities are reducing access to some of New Zealand’s most productive land for growing fruit and vegetables,” McClung says. “There is some complacency about this because of the misconception that fruit and vegetables can be grown ‘somewhere else’. But the combination of the right soils and climate is necessary.  . . 

When good sense takes control of the wheel:

 Today marks a big win for on farm safety and biosecurity, says Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis. In the Government’s announcement of its Employment Relations Bill today, a change Federated Farmers advocated for appears to be included.

The Bill allows union representatives the right to access worksites where union members are covered by or bargaining for a collective agreement, but requires consent from employers in all other circumstances. . . 

Glyphosate and TIME magazine: writer employed by advocacy group a dubious choice – Grant Jacobs:

TIME magazine has a story on DeWayne ‘Lee’ Johnston who took Monsanto to court claiming RoundUp caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[1] The story has obvious appeal, but is crying out for balance and it’s provenance is, to be kind, awkward. I’d love to read his account of his experiences since the trial — but from a source I can trust. I’m dubious that a writer employed by an advocacy organisation can be sensibly used as a journalist.

A reply

responded on TIME’s Facebook page, . . 

Tulips from Balfour – Blair Drysdale:

Quite often when farmers share their frustrations about the weather in conversation with others, we’re accused of just being a “whinging farmer”. But for farmers and horticulturalists alike among others, it dictates our day-to-day operations, our state of mind and the bottom line result at the end of the financial year.

And this year just like all before it, has had its perils and is no exception. A dull winter with little sun and few frosts, has continued on well into spring with plenty of precipitation, a combination of a lack of equinox winds and little sunshine to dry the soil out, has made it very frustrating trying to get spring barley in the ground here. . . 

On the farm – what’s happening in rural New Zealand:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

Northland warmed up as the week progressed. It has had a drop or two of rain – 30 to 40mm in the west, less in the east. That has nudged along sluggish grass growth, which has given farmers the confidence to buy cattle. Two-year-old steers have been fetching between $1200 and $1500 and yearlings $650 to $1000. Female cattle have not been doing so well. Prices are down for younger cattle by 8 to12 percent compared with last year. . . 


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