Rural round-up

January 26, 2019

Farm open day invites city dwellers to see farmers’ investment to preserve the land – Sam Kilmister:

A Rangitīkei farmer is inviting city dwellers to see first-hand what farmers are doing to leave their land in a better place than they found it.

The field day at Mary and Justin Vennell’s​ farm, near Rewa, on February 14, will show visitors the investment made by farmers who are part of Horizons Regional Council’s sustainable land use scheme.

The day will include information about carbon farming and the Emissions Trading Scheme. It will also discus planting native trees and what residents can do to improve the region from their own backyard. . . 

Horts’ growing profile changing – Peter Burke:

The profile of horticulture is changing, according to a report by the Horticultural Export Authority (HEA).

The report says the industry has consolidated greatly in the last two years. Some sectors have fewer growers but larger commercial growing operations and in some cases the acreage of crops has increased.

Two examples of this are the onion and capsicum industries. In 2016, there were 95 onion growers with 4895ha in production versus 2018 with 91 growers and 5225ha planted. In the case of capsicums, in 2016 there were 75 growers. However, in the past two years the number of growers has dropped to 46 – yet production has increased from 15,000 tonnes to 19,000t. . .

North Canterbury trio to clash in regional farming competition :

 Three North Canterbury club mates are set to clash in the Tasman Regional Final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition.

Georgie Lindsay, Matt Redmond and Woody Gardner will face-off in the hotly-contested event in Culverden in March.

The trio are all members of Amuri Basin Young Farmers group. . .

WoolhandlingWorlds

 Three world woolhandling champions remain in strong contention to battle for the two places representing New Zealand at this year’s championships in France.

Reigning champion Joel Henare leads the southern pool of a selection series which culminates with a final at the Golden Shears in Masterton on March 2 and naming of two woolhandlers in the six-strong Shearing Sports New Zealand team for the World Championships in Le Dorat, France, on July 1-7. . . 

Working with nature reaps rewards for farmers :

Two Canterbury high country farming couples have been jointly awarded the 2018 North Canterbury Fish & Game Working with Nature awards.

The awards are given each year to farmers who have made an effort to protect the environment.

Fish & Game says the efforts that Bruce and Lyn Nel from Middle Rock Station and Don and Julie Patterson from Manuka Point Station have made to preserve the natural environment and protect waterways has earnt them this year’s environmental recognition. . .

Putting carbon back into soil:

In a world having too much carbon in the atmosphere and obsessed about expensive and dangerous technologies for it’s removal, it is comforting to know that a form of charcoal has now been accepted by the IPCC as a useful tool in the fight against climate change.

Biochar is charcoal which can be used to lift productivity in agriculture and as a long-lived carbon store in soils. It can be used to enhance water quality and as a bioremediation tool for contaminated soils. The production of biochar can also deliver secondary bioenergy benefits and deal with many types of ‘liability’ biomass.  . .


Rural round-up

December 10, 2018

Farmers are up to the challenge of meeting climate change targets – William Rolleston:

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its special report on the actions needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  This, it said, would require “transformative systemic change” involving “far-reaching, multilevel and cross-sectorial mitigation”.

The report says limiting warming to 1.5C implies reaching net zero CO₂ emissions globally by around 2050 and “deep reductions” in short-lived gases such as methane.

The report recognises that, as a long-lived gas, CO₂ accumulates in the atmosphere, whereas methane from agriculture (while a strong greenhouse gas) is recycled through the system. . . 

Farmers act on sustainability:

Taihape farmers are exploring ways to ensure environmental sustainability while improving the profits from their sheep and beef farms.

The Taihape Action Group formed under the Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network, which had its first get-together in July, comprises nine farming businesses within a 50km radius of the central North Island town.

It is at an early stage of the profit-growing process. 

The farmers involved are developing individual action plans that set out the on-farm changes they want to make. . . 

The power of a farmer’s story – Jennie Schmidt:

Christmas is a season for stories. We tell tales about the Nativity and the three kings. We also laugh about the time when Uncle Klaus wore the awful sweater to the family dinner.

Stories are the most powerful form of communication available to us. That’s why the four most compelling words in the English language may be: “Once upon a time.”

Farmers don’t always appreciate this fact, especially when we’re discussing our own business of agriculture. We’re inclined to mention inputs and outputs, moisture levels, yields, commodity prices, and more. You know: farmer talk. 

The challenge increases when our conversations turn to technology, and especially when they involve new technologies, including GMO crops, gene editing, and so on. At this point, our rhetoric can sound like boring passages from science textbooks. They’re about as interesting as the homework that none of us miss from our school days. . . 

Waikato farmers acting early on effluent management:

We talk to three Waikato farmers involved in our Dairy Environment Leaders programme, about how they’re managing effluent on their farms.

Ian Taylor, Puketaha

When constructing a new effluent pond, Ian set his sights firmly on the future, by choosing a system that far exceeded minimum standards.

He’d been planning an effluent pond for a while, but was waiting on results from a project investigating how effluent runs through peat soil. However, a very wet spring last year prompted him to act earlier than expected. . . 

Smith keen to work with farmers – Annette Scott:

New primary industries director-general Ray Smith is a self-acclaimed passionate Kiwi who wants his fifth generation New Zealand children to experience a bit of the NZ he grew up with. He talked to Annette Scott on a visit to meet farmers in Ashburton.

Just three weeks into his new job as primary industries director-general Ray Smith was hungry for information and couldn’t get his teeth into his new patch soon enough.

He heard about a meeting being facilitated by Federated Farmers in Ashburton for farmers affected by the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis and made a call to ask if he could invite himself. . . 

China remains the key to dairy prices – Mark Daniel:

China remains the key to where the global marketplace is heading in dairy prices, says Westpac economist Anne Boniface.

Speaking at a recent Owl Farm focus day at St Peters School, Cambridge, Boniface said China’s growth had slipped from 6.9% to 6.3% in the past 12 months.

However, she believes Chinese consumer spending is still strong, with any economic slowdown due to a squeeze on credit for larger capital projects. . . 

How precision agriculture can transform the agritech sector and improve the lot of every Indian farmer – Shruti Kedia:

Using big data, satellite imaging and Internet of Things, Precision Agriculture can help address low productivity, lack of farm mechanisation, access to markets, and increase crop yields.

In 1965, India’s green revolution led to a sharp increase in crop yields and farmers’ income. Decades later, could a tech revolution change the way this agrarian country farms?

The answer is, yes it can. In fact, it already is. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 17, 2014

IPCC Mitigation Report redefines agriculture as ‘green tech’:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Mitigation Report places New Zealand in a very good position so long as the policy nexus supports the carbon efficient production of food.

“The IPCC’s Mitigation Report projects that emissions from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use could, by 2050, be half of what they were in 2010,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“In the IPCC’s Mitigation Report summary for policymakers, agriculture is seen as being positive because it “plays a central role for food security and sustainable development”.

“We think the IPCC has come a very long way from 2007. There is an increasing alignment between climate change and food insecurity, arguably, the two biggest challenges our species will face this century. . .

Tukituki decision a win for water quality and farming:

The draft decision by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) on the Tukituki Catchment proposal represents a significant win for freshwater management and the urgency of a transition to environmentally sustainable agriculture in New Zealand, says Fish & Game NZ.

Fish & Game lead the evidence presented against the most contentious issue in front of the BOI which was Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s proposed “single nutrient management” approach – this focussed only on the management of phosphorous and set instream nitrogen limits at toxic levels. . .

Kiwi on the farm:

The sight of kiwi scratching the grass on Richard Gardner’s farm near Kaipara is now a common sight, thanks to his family’s dedication to a restoration project in the area.

Richard Gardner says they’ve been controlling pests in a fenced-off area of bush on his land and last year decided to introduce kiwi back into the area for the first time in 50 years.

He says his sister, Gill Adshead, and her husband, Kevin, were initially behind the restoration of 400 hectares of native bush, which is now home to kiwi. . .

Barns could give us the best of both worlds – James Houghton:

In a recent column by Sir David Skegg, he says we need to stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too. Whilst right now that may not be the case it is definitely a possibility.

Right now we are working to get the balance right between the environment and economy. Yes there is intensification and with that comes responsibility. Farmers are upgrading their infrastructure to keep within the acceptable limits, which involves nutrient budgets, cattle housing, new technology, and overseer programs. Overall New Zealand dairy farmers are investing a conservative $3 billion into improving their environmental impact, which is nothing to snort at. For each individual dairy farmer that equates to about a $250,000 investment, you can say we are taking every practical step to improve our environment.

It is all well and good to say we need a balance between meeting the Government’s target of doubling our exports by 2025 and maintaining and improving our water quality – everyone will agree with you here, but who sets that balance? It comes down to where your priorities lie, and everyone’s priorities are different. . .

Whitebait partners look for solutions:

Waikato-Tainui, local marae, councils and agencies are working together to better manage whitebait fisheries at Port Waikato following the compilation of a new report.

The report is the result of an initial scoping project to better understand the complex and inter-related resource management issues around whitebaiting in the lower Waikato River. The area has traditionally been a plentiful source of whitebait but over the years more and more people are seeking to gather the delicacy there.

With more people comes increased pressures for space to build stands, an increase in the number and size of baches and associated pressures such as sewage management, and a growing amount of whitebait being taken.  . .

Alps trail activity booms – Rebecca Fox:

In its first ”official” season, activity on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is much higher than the forecast.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said monthly trail counter readings from September 2013 to February this year show 3604 cyclists used the Lake Ohau Lodge section of the trail, 4815 cycled the Lake Pukaki section and 3646 passed the Ohau Weir section.

”The numbers are fantastic … they are higher than what was forecast,” Mr Gaskill said.

”In a lot of ways, it’d be hard to imagine how things could have gone a lot better [this season].” . . .

Feed statistics reflect the growth of New Zealand dairy production:

Annual Feed Production Statistics compiled by the New Zealand Feed Manufacturers Association (NZFMA) for the year 2013 reflect the changing face of feed production. Based on figures supplied by NZFMA member companies nationwide, the NZFMA annual statistics report the total tonnages of manufactured animal feed and the tonnages of raw materials used in the production of compound feed in New Zealand. (Compound feed is heat-treated feed produced in a feed mill in pellet or mashed form.)

In 2013, compound feed production increased by 2.8% to 991,027 tonnes and raw material usage rose by 4.1% to 983,440 tonnes. The four main grains used were wheat (58.8%), barley (17.4%), sorghum (12.2%) and maize (10.3%). The majority of compound feed was produced in the North Island (65.3%). 86% of compound feed is currently produced in bulk form and 14% is bagged. . .


Prevent, reverse and/or prepare?

September 30, 2013

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded there’s a 95% certainty climate change is human-induced.

There are several possible responses to that including work to prevent or reverse it, panic and/or preparing for it.

New Zealand contributes such a tiny amount to global emissions there’s little we can do to prevent or reverse it, but Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said we’re doing our bit:

. . . “New Zealand has been an active participant in the IPCC process. It is important that we contribute as addressing climate change demands collective action, and it keeps our scientists and officials up to date with the latest in climate science. This assists policy development and decision making at home.

As well as making an important contribution to the IPCC scientific process, New Zealand is playing its part to achieve fair and binding international rules around greenhouse gas emissions.

“New Zealand actively participates in international climate change negotiations and supports collective, collaborative action. We recently convened and hosted an informal dialogue to inject some fresh thinking into negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol, by the end of 2015.

“New Zealand is committed to doing our fair share without imposing excess costs on households and businesses, while the Government focuses on jobs and strengthening our recovery,” says Mr Groser.

“The Government recently made an unconditional commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to five per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and maintains a conditional commitment to a reduction target range of 10% to 20% below 1990 levels.

“We have implemented the Emissions Trading Scheme, we are making progress towards our 90% renewable electricity target, and have launched the Global Research Alliance, committing $45 million to research ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.”

As well as playing our part in prevention and reversal we need to prepare for the consequences should the forecast effects eventuate.

One way to prepare for the increased heat and droughts which are predicted is irrigation some of which requires water storage.

Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston has been calling for more water storage systems for some time.

He says the Opuha dam in Canterbury has proven to be effective in times of dry weather, and more opportunities for water storage around the country need to be sought.

Dr Rolleston says the discussion around a proposal by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to build the Ruataniwha dam needs to continue and the dam could be positive for the economy and the environment.

The Ruataniwha dam is controversial, because of concerns it could lead to an intensification of farming, with nutrient run-off potentially proving toxic for the Tukituki River and its fish species.

But Dr Rolleston says climate implications need to be considered.

He says farmers need to prepare, and water storage systems, like the Ruataniwha dam, could help mitigate extremes of climate.

Dr Rolleston says like the Opuha dam, the Ruataniwha dam could prove effective in times of dry weather.

While New Zealand has plenty of water, he says it’s not always in the right place at the right time.

“Certainly in South Canterbury we’ve had the Opuha dam for some years and it’s proven to be a real bonus for both the economy and the environment and we need to be aware that water storage can have a positive effect on both.”

Dr Rolleston says discussions about the Ruataniwha dam need to continue.

Ironically  the people who are most vociferous about climate change and adamant we must do something about it are often the ones who are most vehemently opposed to irrigation and the water storage which enables more of it.

They fail to see the benefits which aren’t just economic but environmental and social too.

Whether or not climate change eventuates as forecast, droughts have always been with us and will continue to occur.

Water storage can insure against that and should be pursued where at all possible, with the necessary safeguards to ensure that increasing the quantity of water available doesn’t compromise the quality.


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