Rural round-up

03/01/2014

Nature and high-end design meets farming –  Bruce Wills:

Every time you think we know all there is to know about agriculture, nature has a habit of coming along, tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that really, we don’t.

Like sand flies in summer, not all native species are what you could describe as cute, cuddly or wanted.  Porina caterpillars love to chew the grass equally of lawns in-town and farm pasture in the countryside.  Meanwhile, grass grubs attack grass from below ironically proving that beside scale, both town and country have much in common.  These insects do their worst during the key periods of growth for pasture and lawns alike.  If you live in town and find bare patches of lawn odds are you’ll know what I mean.

Since pasture is the engine room of any farm and directly supports half of everything we export to the world, helping to pay our way in it, farmers will spend many millions of dollars trying to control these insects.  Nature being nature means this becomes a biological game of whack-a-mole. . .

Awards for 2013 – Willy Leferink:

As I look back upon 2013, I am going to present my own personal ‘awards’ reflecting some of the big items over the past year.

Given a lack of water defined 2013 at its beginning and water quality defined it at year’s end, my Al Gore Award for Most Underreported Inconvenient Truth goes to the Ministry for the Environment’s “River condition indicator Summary and key findings.”  Why else would a 10-year summary of water quality testing released in July get so little fanfare for revealing, “Of the parameters we [the MfE] monitor, all are either stable or improving at most monitored sites. Four of our parameters show stable or improving trends in 90% of sites”.

Allied to this water theme water is my ‘Harold Camping/The End is Nigh Environmental Armageddon Award.’

This one goes to any celebrity water quality scientist telling the media that virtually all freshwater bathing sites are unsafe.  It’s like hyperinflation meets bathing water quality but most Kiwis swimming at freshwater spots are letting their freestyle do the talking.  The ‘Two Face Special Achievement Certificate’ goes to our friends at our national fishing club who told everyone in the media how terrible our water quality is and who’s largely to blame.  That’s until they want to sell their fishing licenses when the fishing magically becomes fantastic. . .

Landfarming is safe practice – soil scientist – Adam Ray:

A soil scientist who has examined the controversial practice of landfarming says its opponents are ignoring evidence that it is safe.

Landfarming involves mixing mud and other drilling waste into low-quality soil, which then returns to pasture.

Scientist Doug Edmeades has examined soil from a farm near Hawera where it was carried out seven years ago.

“When I started out on this, I expected to find some interesting results,” he says. . .

Growing Up on a Farm: 25 Facts About Being a Farm Kid! – MyAGventures:

This post is dedicated to all you past, present and future farm kids out there. There may not be very many of us, but we truly are  one-of-a-kind. In all honesty, I don’t know of a better way to grow up. Yes, we worked hard. Yes, we can tell stories all day long about our experiences both good and bad. Most importantly, yes we are proud to be farmers’ sons and farmers’ daughters. We are proud to be born and raised farm kids.  We are proud to be future farmers.. .


Taranaki landfarms fit for purpose

05/10/2013

An investigation  commissioned by the Taranaki regional Council has found that landfarms are fit for purpose.

Doctor Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge  who undertook the investigation found:

1. Waste products (rock cuttings and drilling muds) from the oil exploration industry in Taranaki are being incorporated into  re-contoured formed sand dunes and re-sown back to pasture (a process referred to as Landfarming). This process is controlled by resource consents issued by the Taranaki Regional Council. Three Landfarms have been completed to date and are now being farmed commercially (2 under irrigation).
 
2. The drilling muds contain potential contaminants: petrochemical residues, barium, heavy metals and salts. The question arises: are these reformed soils ‘fit-for-purpose’ – in this case pastoral farming and especially dairy farming.
 
3. As required by the consents regular soil samples were collected and analysed during the disposal process. These results were summarised and examined relative to the permitted limits for the various potential contaminants.
 
4. The completed sites were visited and the pasture and soils inspected. Soil and pasture samples were collected and analysed for all potential contaminants. These results were compared to the properties of normal New Zealand pastorals soils.
 
5. It is concluded from this body of evidence that these modified soils are ‘fit–for-purpose”. The concentrations of: nutrients (macro and micro), heavy metals and soluble salts in these soils and pasture are similar to normal New Zealand soils. The form of barium present is as environmentally benign barite, and there is no evidence of accumulation of petrochemical residues.
 
6. The process of Landfarming these otherwise very poor soils, together with appropriate management (irrigation, fertiliser and improved pastures) has increased the agronomic value of the land from about $3-5000/ha to $30-40,000/ha.
 
Federated Farmers had earlier called Green Party concerns about these properties as scaremongering and is buoyed that an independent scientific investigation has confirmed these farms are not only safe, but may be better for the environment.
 

“Federated Farmers congratulates Taranaki Regional Council for commissioning Dr Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge to test landfarming,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.

“If you happen to be a farmer with less than even pasture or soil quality, then the cliché, ‘One man’s trash is another’s treasure,’ very much applies. Landfarms recycle the mud, rocks and clay that comes from mining so is smart recycling.

“The blending of this material into the sand makes it worthwhile to add fertiliser and to put in place irrigation infrastructure. Simply put there is soil.

“These landfarms are also monitored and tested by Taranaki Regional Council and Dr Edmeades study vindicates both the concept and the council’s monitoring approach.

“That’s why the negative claims made about landfarms in Taranaki were so thin they could model in Paris.

“Dr Edmeades is a scientist who has completed an ANZAC Fellowship and was National Science Program Leader (Soils and Fertiliser) for AgResearch. In 1997, he established his own science consulting business, which became AgKnowledge.

“Dr Edmeades is an expert in his field. His report concluded that landfarming made sandy and highly erosion prone coastal farmland, ten times better for dairy farming. That is both an economic and environmental win since these farms previously had poor soils.

“Because of the value and productive uplift from landfarming, it has allowed better management practices to be adopted.

“His report found that the concentrations of heavy metals in the landfarms were at the low end of the range, when compared to soils from various regions in farmed and non-farmed areas. That is a positive.

“While hydrocarbons were found on the most recently completed landfarm, Dr Edmeades said these levels would decline as soil microbes broke them down.

“Being a farmer, I know that earthworms are a strong indicator of soil health and Dr Edmeades found them in large numbers. That’s a key thing for me because he described earthworms as a soil scientist’s ‘canary in the mine’.

“At least we now have a robust independent scientific report saying that landfarming is not only safe but can be environmentally positive. That’s why we need to base discussion on hard facts and evidence and not for short-term political gain,” Mr Leach concluded.

Fonterra had stopped taking milk from new properties on land farms because of the cost of tests.

The perception of a safe clean dairy industry was also a factor.

Perception beats reality – it will probably beat the science because those dark green anti-dairy campaigners only back the science which suits their case.


Rural round-up

03/10/2013

Taranaki study backs landfarming science – Isobel Ewing:

An independent report on landfarming in Taranaki has vindicated the science behind the process, Taranaki Regional Council boss of environmental quality Gary Bedford says.

In a report commissioned by the council, soil scientist Doug Edmeades, of AgKnowledge Ltd in Hamilton, set out to see if landfarms in Taranaki were fit for pastoral farming, in particular dairy farming.

Dr Edmeades investigated soil fertility, heavy metal and barium concentrates and petrochemical residues in the soil at three landfarming sites in the region.

The report found that landfarming made sandy, coastal farmland ten times better for dairying.

“The process of landfarming these otherwise very poor soils, together with appropriate management has increased the agronomic value of the land from about $3000-5000/ha to $30,000-40,000/ha.” . .

Hardwood project promises billions – Jon Morgan:

When arsenic was found in the aquifer beneath Marlborough’s vineyards in 2003 it sent a shiver of fear through the region. The worry was that the deadly poison would find its way into the wine and sink the then-$400 million industry.

Research found the water source was naturally occurring arsenic and not a danger to health. But it also found arsenic in the soil – from thousands of tanalised pine posts.

A search began for an alternative post. It has taken 10 years, but the group formed to undertake the research and grow the wood – the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative – has reached a crucial stage.

Seven eucalypt species have been identified as having the ideal qualities. Seed has been collected, trials planted on farms throughout both islands and the best trees are starting to show.

At the same time, new markets far beyond the 450,000 posts a year needed for Marlborough vineyards alone have been discovered. . .

Forum Will Rebuild New Zealand’s Food Safety Image:

A Dunedin woman has accepted the challenge to help rebuild New Zealand’s food safety image.

Dr Helen Darling, a founder of a company which pioneers global food verification systems, is bringing up to 200 delegates to Otago to address the perception that New Zealand must improve its food safety standards.

The Global Food Safety Forum traditionally meets in Beijing but Dr Darling has persuaded the US based, not-for-profit organisation, to hold it in New Zealand from November 13-15.

A strong emphasis will be to consider and seek solutions to the next crisis before it occurs.

“With food safety, prevention is better than cure. We will look at emerging threats and ways to address them before they become a problem to our producers and for trade.” . .

Drought over but affects will linger:

While the drought of 2013 is now officially over, some farms, especially meat and fibre will see its aftermath linger for years to come.

“While the thankfully benign winter and spring has seen a most remarkable come back in terms of pasture, North Island sheep farmers in particular lost capital stock and quality genetics,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events Spokesperson.

“Not to mention their wool crop too. The shame being that it came at a time when wool seemed to be finding its feet

“After speaking to my colleague Jeannette MaxwellI, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Chairperson, it means we are looking at fewer lambs this year with speculation it could be upwards of three million. . .

Ready and relevant for 21st century: Lincoln University launches new land-based degree portfolio:

This week Lincoln University has marked a number of significant events. 

On Tuesday 1st October, the University launched its new portfolio of bachelor’s degrees – all of which are now focused on knowledge and expertise that creates careers in the land-based industries, globally.

The new portfolio retains flagships such as the Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture), and introduces new degrees such as the Bachelor of Agribusiness and Food Marketing and the Bachelor of Environment and SocietyAll the new majors have a very clear focus on the land-based sector. 

“These changes reinforce what this University exists to do, which is to help feed the world, protect the future and live well.  Our reform has seen us reduce the number of majors within our degrees from 42 to 24 (43 percent).  We have narrowed our focus and deepened our capacity to be world class where it really counts, in the land-based industries,” says Professor Sheelagh Matear , Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Academic Programmes and Student Experience. . .

Westland trumps its big brother:

New Zealand’s second largest dairy cooperative, Westland Milk Products, has managed to beat Fonterra Cooperative Group with a $6.34 per kilogram of milk solids (kg/MS) payout before retentions.

“That 2012/13 season must rank as one of the weirdest we’ve had here on the Coast,” says Richard Reynolds, Federated Farmers West Coast Dairy chairperson.

“After a promising start, we had a summer flood which washed out bridges before a drought so severe some sections of our rivers like the Taramakau actually dried up.

“Despite all of this, Westland deserves credit for managing to make a surplus of $6.34 kg/MS. That compares to Fonterra’s $6.30 kg/MS before retentions.

“The difference in the final payout is due to Fonterra retaining 14 cents kg/MS while Westland retained 30 cents kg/MS. We are comfortable with what Westland is retaining despite it leaving us with slightly less cash in the hand at $6.04 kg/MS. . .

And the latest parody from Peterson Farm Bros:


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