Rural round-up

July 8, 2020

Let them eat wood – Dame Anne Salmond:

The farmers are right. As the price of carbon rises, the settings in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will make it more profitable to plant pine trees than to grow food (or native forests) in many parts of New Zealand.

On the East Coast, for instance, a landowner will be paid 10 times more by year 5 for planting pine trees instead of native forest, and farmland is going under pine trees in many places. With wool prices at historic lows, and rising carbon prices, this trend will only accelerate.

On highly erodible soils, the folly of planting shallow-rooted pine trees and clear-felling them every 25-30 years is obvious. Witness the tsunami of logs and sediment that have drowned streams, rivers, houses, fields, beaches and harbours in places like Tolaga Bay, Marahau, and many other parts of New Zealand.

With two-thirds of the forestry industry owned overseas, like the logs, the profits are exported, but the costs remain behind. Ravaged landscapes, wildling pines, roading networks wrecked by logging trucks, workers killed and injured in the forests. . . 

Farmer’s pitch to big biz: My land, your trees, planet’s gain –  Jo Lines-MacKenzie:

One farmer’s novel pitch to big firms to use her land for carbon offset tree planting is being touted as a win-win for both the business and agricultural sectors.

Federated Farmers says the idea could catch on and they could be the organisation to make it work.

The idea has been sparked by King Country farmer Dani Darke who posted a proposal on social media to offer up 10 hectares of her own land to plant native trees.

She pitched the idea to Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, Z Energy, and anyone else who wanted to participate. . . 

Strath Taieri the new food bowl of New Zealand – Sally Rae:

Strath Taieri is a traditional farming district, best known for sheep and beef cattle. But an irrigation proposal being mooted has the potential to see it diversify into other areas, including horticulture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Strath Taieri — the new Food Bowl of Dunedin?

That’s what the Strath Taieri Irrigation Company (STIC) believes could happen if the Taieri Catchment Community Resilience Project wins approval.

It is a project that has been talked about for decades but which, in recent times, has gained momentum, with an application for funding made to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Without reliable water, the future for the district would be bleak, STIC said.

And by bringing more irrigation water to the area and ensuring certainty of supply, there was potential for diversification of the traditional sheep and beef farming area into the likes of horticulture, as well as increasing productivity within existing farming operations. . . 

Direction of horticulture industry aligns with Fit for a Better World:

Horticulture New Zealand says the horticulture industry’s future focused strategies align well with what is proposed in Fit for a Better World

‘Horticulture is already well into the journey that has been identified and proposed in these reports, and this journey will continue,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Immediately post lockdown, our entire industry – comprising more than 20 different fruit and vegetable product groups – got together with key government departments to develop and implement a strategy and work programme that will see horticulture spearhead New Zealand’s economic and social recovery from Covid.

‘We are encouraged to see that the proposal identifies a key opportunity to accelerate the horticulture industry’s development, which fits perfectly with our own work. . . 

Low-methane ‘elite’ sheep breeding project finds success – AgResearch scientist – Eric Frykberg:

Low methane appears to be a breedable trait that does not affect economic value in sheep, and could lead to a cumulative 1 percent reduction in emissions each year, farmers have been told.

AgResearch scientist Suzanne Rowe told a webinar organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Council that research into such animals had been going on for a decade.

Rowe said a study of 1000 sheep divided into high emitting and low emitting animals found these traits were passed on to successive generations.

“After three generations we have 11 percent less methane per kilogramme of feed eaten,” she said. . . 

Bingara producers turn to embryos to breed back out of drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

Bingara producer Rhonda King and her 86-year-old father Alf were steaming ahead with their Speckle Park herd when back-to-back droughts crippled their momentum.

In January they had made the decision to sell the final remnants of their 300-head herd at Doctors Creek when rain came not long after and saved them from the decision.

With cattle prices soaring to record levels Ms King opted to use her lifetime travel savings to purchase embryos rather than replacement livestock and is hoping to breed her way back into business.

Their herd currently consists of about 90 Speckle Park including cows, heifers and bulls with an additional 11 Angus recipients purchased from another stud. . . 


Rural round-up

August 17, 2019

Gas measures bring cost cuts – Neal Wallace:

Winton dairy farmer Dean Alexander stumbled into the world of measuring carbon emissions.

Ironically, he had just spent more than $500,000 on resource consent and infrastructure to increase cow numbers when he realised the expansion meant an increase in his greenhouse gas emissions.

Alexander told the recent Dunedin meeting of the Ministry for the Environment’s Action and Agricultural Emissions public consultation he realised he needed to learn more about climate change.

From that research he concluded it is a real and looming threat, there is no silver bullet and farmers need to start reducing their emissions now.

“You need to do little things well and it is about starting now,” he says. . . 

Farmer who beat debt and depression on a mission to help :

A New Zealand farmer has told how he battled an eight-year drought and mental health issues to become one of the country’s top beef and sheep producers.

After years of spiralling debts and depression, Doug Avery turned his 2,400ha farm into one of New Zealand’s most successful farming enterprises.

It has been a long struggle, but he has since received widespread acclaim for his approach to farming, the environment and mental wellbeing. . . 

Book shares the shearers’ stories – Chris Tobin:

The success of an earlier book on drovers has prompted Timaru author Ruth Entwistle Low to write another, this time on shearers.

The Shearers: New Zealand Legends was launched in Timaru last week following on from her successful On the Hoof: The Untold Story of Drovers in New Zealand.

”It was a risk for my publishers taking on the drovers’ book,” she said.

”It’s a niche subject but the book sold well and was on the New Zealand best seller non-fiction lists for six weeks, which was pretty satisfying.”

That prompted the realisation that there was sufficient interest to warrant another similar book.

”When the dust settled on the first one, Penguin came back and said: ‘Do you want to write a book on shearers?’.” . . 

Minette Batters: Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming – Julian Baggini:

Minette Batters could not have chosen a more difficult time to become the first female president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). “Things could go massively wrong and it could decimate the industry,” she tells me at the NFU’s London headquarters. “It could destroy lives and livelihoods and families, and that is in the back of my mind at all times.”

The threat comes from a chaotic Brexit, which she has been fighting from the moment of her election in February last year. Her warning is grave: “If the government does forget about agriculture, if they do flood us with cheap ingredients that would be illegal for us to produce here, it would make what happened to coal and steel look like a walk in the park.”

Batters says Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming. Along with the climate emergency, it has forced the industry to think hard about sustainable agriculture. . . 

Plant-based meat substitutes drive headlines, beef drives sales :

Meat and poultry consumption is expected to hit record highs this year.¹ However, the news about animal proteins’ popularity has been overshadowed by recent headlines generated by plant-based meat substitutes, with national foodservice distribution deals and IPOs garnering attention in both trade and mainstream media. It is important to look beyond the headlines to put these next-generation meat substitutes, as well as the claims made by the companies producing these products, in context with sales numbers and consumer perceptions, as well as environmental and nutritional facts. While some of the companies behind plant-based meat substitutes aim to replace animal proteins, in 2018 beef was the most valuable protein at retail.²

Sales data reveals that last year consumers purchased 14 billion pounds of beef compared with 700,000 pounds of beef substitutes in both retail and foodservice. That is, beef substitutes comprised half of a percent of the overall market in pounds.³  . . 

Cannasouth harvests 1st crop of medicinal research cannabis:

Cannasouth has harvested its first crop of medicinal research cannabis from its purpose-built growing facility in Hamilton.

Cannasouth founders Mark Lucas and Nic Foreman have been growing industrial hemp varieties outdoors since 2002. However, this harvest is significant because of the high THC (tetrahydrocannabidiol) and CBD (cannabidiol) content of the plants, which are grown indoors under tight security.

Until now, Cannasouth has been conducting its research using raw high-grade THC-rich cannabis flower from the Netherlands – imported under a special licence from the Ministry of Health. . . 


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