DairyNZ has 5 point nitrogen reduction plan


DairyNZ  has a five-point nitrogen reduction plan:

DairyNZ Senior Scientist, Pierre Beukes, will share the latest research on how to reduce nitrogen leaching on farm by 40% at the organisation’s Farmers’ Forum events in Greymouth on 12 April and Woodville on 28 May.

Dr Beukes leads a team who have researched a combination of five nitrogen reduction solutions that, when used in combination, can make a major impact on farm.

“When it comes to reducing nitrogen leaching, there is no one silver bullet; it’s a combination of several options that have the greatest effect. We’ve discovered five strategies, in particular, that when used together can create a 40% reduction,” he says.

Pierre says, first off, there are three things farmers can do to reduce their overall nitrogen load: reduce fertiliser use, reduce stocking rates and lower replacement rates. Doing these three things, he says, in the right combination can be a cost-neutral exercise and, in many cases, lead to higher profitability.

“Our research shows just concentrating on these three factors alone can lead to a 20% nitrogen reduction on farm.”

Points four and five of the five-point nitrogen reduction plan both require some investment, says Pierre.

“These include using a stand-off pad in autumn to capture urine and direct it into your effluent pond for spreading on paddocks in the spring, and using a nitrification inhibitor to treat urinary patches in the paddock.

“These two strategies are more costly – estimated to be around $500 per hectare if you implement both.

“But the payoff is that our research shows using a stand-off pad in combination with a nitrification inhibitor can add a further 20% reduction in nitrogen leaching,” he explains.

Although the use of nitrification inhibitors in New Zealand is currently on hold, Dr Beukes said it was his understanding that the current restrictions on nitrification inhibitor usage are likely to be temporary.

Dr Beukes’ presentation is part of the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum events which are being held in Whangarei, Hawera, Woodville, Invercargill and Greymouth during April and May.

The informative and practical seminars will showcase DairyNZ’s latest research projects. Scientists will speak about their work and, at several events, local farmers will share how they are implementing some of the research on farm.

Each of the Farmers’ Forums events is designed by the local DairyNZ teams to address challenges and opportunities specific to each region.

Farmers can view the programmes and register to attend their local event online at www.dairynz.co.nz/farmersforum.

Registration is essential and free to levy-paying farmers and their staff – there is a $50 charge for all others.

Higher productivity and a reduction in nitrogen leaching ought to be attractive to all farmers.

Combined effort cleans up Lake Rotorua


A combined effort by the council, farmers and community has cleaned up Lake Rotorua:

Federated Farmers Rotorua-Taupo is applauding the work of farmers and the wider community, which has seen Lake Rotorua improve beyond the target set by Bay of Plenty Regional Council in its regional water and land plan.

“We are not going to take all of the credit here because farming was never the entire problem.  It is however a triumph for the whole community,” says Neil Heather, Federated Farmers Rotorua-Taupo provincial president.

“The latest water testing of Lake Rotorua shows the Trophic Level Index (TLI), which measures the amount of nutrients in the lake, has fallen to 4.1.  This means Lake Rotorua has average water quality but in the time it has taken, average, is in fact, excellent.

“We started out with a lake that had poor water quality so we are trending in the right direction.  The lake is now below the 4.2 target the regional council had set for it.

“The regional council’s original modelling said things were going to get worse before they got better.  That’s the concern I have for other areas going down this track.  Despite what the model said we knew things were improving but farmers still caught flack in the media.

Poor farming practices can be partly blamed for poor water quality, but they are not usually the only culprits:

“As part of the learnings, we now know gorse leaches some 50 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare and that is more than a dairy farm.  Even pine plantations generate four kilograms per hectare each year and these show how varied the effects on water can be.

“It is why we must celebrate what the community, council and farmers have achieved together.  This is not down to one good year, but is part of an improving trend since we are all doing things better.

“There’s the land based treatment of the District’s human and industrial sewage as well as farmers fencing off stock and capturing nutrients, later recycled as liquid fertiliser.

“Being a Rotorua farmer, I am really proud of my community and we should all take a bow, town and country together. . .

Collaboration between councils, farmers and the community is the best way to achieve cleaner water.

Farmers have a responsiblity to minimise nutrient run-off, keep stock from water ways, manage effluent and do whatever else they can to keep water clean.

But improving water quality requires a team effort and the improved state of Lake Rotorua shows what can be achieved when people work together.

We’re all responsible for water


The ODT brings some balance to bear on water woes:

. .  . evidence that farmers are not the only cause of such pollution may surprise some.

Urban-sourced pollution of waterways does not have the same public profile as that from farms, but one of the country’s great rivers, the Clutha, is still used to remove urban waste from several towns on its banks. Readers were reminded this week that treated sewage from Alexandra, Cromwell, Lawrence, Balclutha, Stirling, Tapanui, Kaka Point and Owaka all ends up in the Clutha, while treated sewage from Queenstown is discharged into the Shotover River. Dunedin waste is treated and discharged to sea through the Tahuna plant but most of the city’s stormwater – untreated – drains into Otago Harbour.

While dairy farmers have largely been the focus of recent attention about waterway pollution, a report carried by Fairfax this week showed some local authorities had struggled to abide by the conditions of their discharge consents. It reported this week that, in the past four years, fines of $153,000 for 123 breaches by 34 of the country’s 61 district and city councils had been issued.

These were made up of eight prosecutions, 47 infringement fines and 68 abatement notices.

In contrast, over the same period, there were 151 prosecutions of dairy farmers, with 1564 infringement notices and 1698 abatement notices. Dairy farmers paid court-imposed fines totalling more than $3.2 million. The heaviest fine for a farmer has been $90,000 and for a local authority $30,000, raising questions about consistency. In a similar vein, in the past six years, while 76 Otago dairy farmers have been prosecuted for illegal effluent discharge, for allowing livestock to access waterways or for pugging, no Otago councils have been fined for any breach of any kind (Environment Southland has recently taken successful cases against Invercargill city and Gore district councils). . .

Milking on the Moove has more on the causes of water pollution:

There are essentially 3 types of pollutants that affect our water ways:
  • Sediment -as a result of erosion and flooding, where large amounts of soil and gravel etc get washed into the water ways.
  • Bacteria– from animal and human waste being discharged into the water ways.
  • Excess Nutrients-when Nitrogen and Phosphorus find their way into the water ways.
Dairy farms main pollutant is Nitrogen from excess nutrients. This graph shows how much nitrogen is leached per ha from the different farming classes. Interestingly Horticulture is the worst offender, but Horticulture makes up a very small area so the overall effect is not as great as the dairy industry. You can see that a dairy farm leaches on average 50kg of N/ha/yr, which is less than horticulture. I have seen data that show vineyards leaching 80kg of N/ha/yr.
They’re-worse-than-us is no excuse but this does show that  urban discharges, horticulture and cropping are part of the problem.
We all use water, we all contribute to waste water which means we’re all responsible for its quality to a greater or lesser degree.


Protein tests the answer


Dr Allan Blackman, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Otago, explains the science behind the melamine milk poisoning in China and provides the answer – testing for protein not just nitrogen.

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