Rural round-up

June 15, 2019

Susan Murray wins the Ravensdown Agricultural Communicator of the Year award:

Radio New Zealand’s Country Life producer and presenter Susan Murray has been named the 2019 Ravensdown Agricultural Communicator of the year.

The award, presented last night at Mystery Creek Fieldays, recognises people making a significant contribution to communicating agricultural issues, events and information.

Susan has worked on the popular farming-based radio programme for more than two decades, bringing a wealth of agricultural knowledge to the show and building a greater public understanding of the practical and technical aspects of farming life in New Zealand. . . 

Agri-innovations on show at Fieldays – Maja Burry:

Some of the best new agri-innovations have been recognised at National Agricultural Fieldays near Hamilton.

Winners at the Fieldays Innovation Awards included a ‘fit bit’ for rivers, which monitors water quality, an online service to help orchardists find seasonal workers, and a device that keeps a trough free of algae.

The company, Future Post, was also recognised for its work turning 100 percent recycled plastic waste into durable fence posts.

Judges said the product provided a way for farmers to participate in addressing what is a massive environmental problem for New Zealand. . . 

AgResearch wins supreme Fieldays award:

AgResearch and three other Crown Research Institute collaborators have won the overall Supreme Site Award for Best Stand at National Fieldays.

Scion, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Environmental Science and Research joined forces with AgResearch to showcase innovative science and the research they do to improve New Zealand farming and the food sector.

The award was announced today. It also received a second award – Best Agribusiness Indoor Site award at Fieldays. . . 

ClearTech wins Fieldays innovation award:

Ravensdown’s ClearTech dairy effluent treatment system which was developed in conjunction with Lincoln University has won a Highly Commended Award at the Fieldays innovation awards.

The system uses a coagulant to bind effluent colloidal particles together in order to settle them out from the water. This clarifying process reduces freshwater use, helps existing effluent storage go further and reduces the environmental and safety risk linked with farm dairy effluent (FDE).

“ClearTech is ideal for those dairy farmers who want to save on effluent pond storage and take back control of their capacity and compliance,” said Product Manager Carl Ahlfeld. . . 

Tractor driving bachelor named Fieldays Rural Catch 2019

An Otorohanga tractor driver has taken out the 2019 Fieldays Rural Catch top honours, while a Hamilton dairy technician was named as the People’s Choice.

Eight rural singles showed off their farm skills at the Fieldays at Mystery Creek, hoping to catch the eye of employers – and a potential love interest.

This year’s competition had them brushing up their confidence with some media interviews and sponsor engagements and showing off their skills in the areas of fencing, innovations, chainsaws, health and wellbeing, finance and ATV skills.

Lewis Nichols, who is a heavy machinery operator for agricultural contracting company Bradfields based in Otorohanga was announced as the winner on Friday. . . 

China’s appetite for NZ red meat is surging – Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – China has been New Zealand’s largest market for red meat for some time and growth in that market is surging.

Meat Industry Association analysis of Stats NZ figures shows China accounted for 36 percent of total red meat exports in April and sales there that month jumped 62 percent by value from the previous April.

That’s down a little from the 70 percent year-on-year growth in the month of March, although growth in the year ended March was a slightly more sedate 47 percent. . .

Dairy industry receives boost with $25 million sustainable innovation programme:

A new $25.68 million innovation programme for New Zealand’s dairy industry will drive improvements in the health and wellbeing of the national dairy herd and a step-change in sustainable milk production.

The seven-year programme, called Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future, launched today and is being led by farmer-owned herd improvement co-operative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), with investment and support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ. . .

A Nelson based company creates a world first non-toxic in fighting grape splitting:

Agricultural fertiliser and biostimulant company Waikaitu Ltd has developed a product that could significantly impact the wine growing industry.

Waikaitu Ltd has produced the world’s first seaweed-based product called FruitGuard to help grapes naturally regulate the water pressure inside the fruit and significantly reduce splitting.

Grape splitting can occur at the end of the season just before harvest, potentially ruining harvests with even a single late season rain event. A grape that has split may then allow fungal infection, like Botrytis, to get established in the grape bunches. If the fungus infection is bad enough the grower can lose their entire crop. Fungal pressure intensifies late in grape development – just before the harvest. . . 

Why govt’s GM policy defers logic, hurts farmers :

As farmers under the umbrella of the Shetkari Sangathana start their civil disobedience movement and plant the banned Herbicide Tolerant (HT) GM seeds as well as Bt brinjal, chances are the authorities will treat this as yet another law and order issue and will arrest them; it is, however, not a simple law and order issue. Of course, farmers cannot be allowed to break the law, but it is also true that their protest is against an irrational and farmer-unfriendly policy; more than anything else, it is yet another attempt to get the government to see sense and reverse its policies; indeed, given the prime minister’s avowed goal of doubling farmers’ incomes, the government’s policy on GM make even less sense.

The advantages of Bt cotton in raising crop yields and farmer profits are well known, and that is why almost all India’s cotton acreage is based on Bt cotton; and as a result of productivity surge, India is one of the world’s largest exporter of cotton. . .

 


Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag?

May 7, 2018

Let’s start with something we can agree on: we all want clean waterways.

Where opinion diverges is on how that is to be achieved.

The government thinks part of the solution is in reducing cow numbers:

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that in some parts of New Zealand cow numbers may have to be cut.

‘Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.’

It’s not just a cow issue and it’s not just nitrogen and phosphorus as this chart from the Agricultural Research Centre shows:

As I have said many times before, the major contributor to problems in the Kakanui River isn’t farming it’s  seagulls.

Back to Q&A, just like with the government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration, it has no idea about the economic impact of reducing cow numbers:

CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID Mm. Well, I think the Landcorp example is illustrative that it’s not the end of the world for dairying.

The Landcorp example is not a good one because the company’s return on capital is abysmal and it’s propensity for making losses couldn’t be sustained by private businesses.

CORIN Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . . 

It’s not just difficult to model, it’s ignoring the reality that land, climate and soils that suit dairying don’t necessarily suit horticulture.

Jacqueline Rowarth pointed out nearly two years ago, a reduction in cow numbers would have unexpected consequences:

Replacing dairy with horticulture might have some economic merit, but land suitability has to be considered, as does the supporting infrastructure and inputs.

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

They also consider the infrastructure, processors and markets. Land that can be used economically and environmentally sustainably for horticulture has mostly been converted already.

There are also detrimental environmental impacts to be considered. Research on the Canterbury Plains reported in the media last year indicated that dairy conversions involving fertiliser and irrigation, actually increased organic matter.

The reverse is also true. And when organic matter breaks down, nitrogen is released as is carbon dioxide.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

He has also shown the use of supplements improves efficiencies. Combined with strategic use of shelters and feed pads, nitrogen losses can be reduced. . . 

A lot of work has been, and continues to be, done into improved practices which reduce dairying’s environmental impact

Keith Woodford says that we need a rational debate about water:

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . . 

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the superficiality, rhetoric and shoutingWhat we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality.  Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase.  At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur.  There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

The rural community also has to accept that change is necessary. . . 

The rural community, and farmers in particular have generally not only accepted that change is necessary but have poured money into making changes which enhance and protect waterways.

They are aware, as the government and many others don’t appear to be, that water quality isn’t just about the environment, it also has a direct impact on the economy.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

It has also provided a huge boost to the national economy, as the biggest or second biggest export earner and a major contributor to the annual tax-take.

The regional slush fund will be no compensation for the destruction of businesses and the people who depend on them. The fund itself will be in danger if the tax take and export income are severely reduced by attacks on farms and farmers.

The Lange-Douglas policies created the ag-sag of the 80s.

Few would argue with the necessity for change and what that government did but this government ought to have learned from the damage done by how they did it.

Farmers aren’t arguing against the need for clean water.

We’re just very worried that the government is sowing the seeds for another ag-sag.

They, and too many other people, don’t understand the economic and social cost of forcing fast changes, especially where they’re not backed by science.


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