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New programme set to transform hill country farms

New programme set to transform hill country farms

30 May 2014

A new Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme focussed on transforming hill country farms is formally underway, after this week’s contract signing between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and industry co-investor Ravensdown.

Announced in principle in June last year, the Pioneering to Precision: Application of Fertiliser in Hill Country PGP programme is a seven-year programme that aims to improve hill country sheep and beef farming productivity and protect the environment through more efficient and more precise use of fertiliser.

By doing this, the programme will improve the profitability of hill country farming and generate earnings of $120 million per annum by 2030 from additional exports of meat and wool.

MPI and Ravensdown are each investing approximately $5 million in the PGP programme.

“Fertiliser is a major investment for farmers and it’s essential that they’re able to effectively apply it to hill country farms in a way that’s precise, cost effective, and provides a better environmental outcome,” says Justine Gilliland, MPI’s Director PGP.

“Current methods of applying fertiliser to hill country farms using top dressing aircraft means more fertiliser may be placed in some areas than needed, and less than is required in others. This affects the productivity and profitability of hill country farming,” says Justine.

“Assessing soil fertility is very challenging on hill country farms,” Ravensdown Chief Executive Greg Campbell says.

“Variable topography and different soil types, along with the impracticality of manual soil sampling to the degree of detail needed, have posed significant barriers to the effective application of fertiliser.”

“Our PGP programme will combine remote-sensing of nutrient status on hill country farms with GPS-guided aerial topdressing to improve hill country productivity and reduce nutrient runoff,” he says.

“Recent advances in remote sensing and imaging mean that there is a real potential for determining soil nutrient status using this technology, though this will require considerable research and development. That is the objective of this joint programme between Ravensdown and MPI.

“The support and assistance of the PGP and our research partners Massey University and AgResearch will enable this type of sampling and data collection to take place,” Greg says.

Greg says that applying fertiliser more precisely means more nutrient efficiency and pasture growth for the same amount of fertiliser, and less application of nutrients to non target areas.

The PGP programme will use some of the most sophisticated technology in the world, including hyperspectral cameras mounted on aircraft to sense what is happening with pasture growth on farms.

“New Zealand has been a world leader in developing pasture measurement for over the past 10 years. This PGP programme provides the opportunity to apply that technology directly to the benefit of farmers and the New Zealand economy.”

The programme will also provide a number of spill-over benefits. For example, the database of soil and pasture nutrient information collected in the programme will be available for a range of other uses, such as improving the soil maps and soil nutrient information available to the public. The remote sensing technology, if successful in hill country fertiliser management, will have applications in a range of other sectors including low land dairy farming and forestry.

“The PGP as a whole is about growing New Zealand’s future: our primary industry sectors are a key enabler towards achieving this,” says Justine. “The Pioneering to Precision: Application of Fertiliser in Hill Country PGP programme is another example of the innovation that the PGP is enabling: it’s using smart ideas and smart action to deliver smart results.”

– ENDS –

View this YouTube video for information about the Pioneering to Precision: Application of Fertiliser in Hill Country PGP programme.

**About the PGP**

The PGP aims to boost the productivity and profitability of our primary sector through investment between government and industry. It provides an essential springboard to enable New Zealand to stay at the forefront of primary sector innovation.

PGP programmes are generally long-run programmes of five to seven years’ duration and are subject to oversight and monitoring by an independent panel (the Investment Advisory Panel) and MPI.

There are 18 announced programmes covering the breadth of the primary industry sectors: wool, dairy, fishing and aquaculture, meat, pastoral, bee keeping, forestry, viticulture and horticulture.

Monitoring requirements for PGP programmes include programme steering groups, quarterly progress reporting, annual plans, audits, and progress reviews, along with evaluation of the overall programme. Funding is only released to programmes on receipt of invoices for work completed in accordance with programme plans.

MPI is seeking applications for new PGP programmes. Applications must be received by MPI by 12pm on Wednesday 25 June 2014. See the PGP webpage on MPI’s website for further information and guidance.

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