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Otago Station Celebrates Biological and Financial Success

Central Otago Station Celebrates Biological and Financial Success.

The winner of the inaugural Supreme 'Healthy Soils' Green Agriculture Innovation Award was announced in front of ground-breaking farming audience in twin events in Rotorua and Christchurch.

David Crutchley received the Supreme Award as a testament to his outstanding outcomes with crop and animal production and health on the 6000 ha Shortlands Station. The Award also recognised David's success in achieving outstanding profitable results in the stark beautiful Central Otago landscapes. David may be familiar to many as a champion dog trialist on the popular 80's "The Dog Show".

Davids winning entry was shortlisted from 10 other Award category winners, which included Bio Farm, Meadowbank Station, Kokako Vineyard, Kono Beverages, Lindsay Farm Dairies, Soil Matters and Youth Award recipient Genevieve Steven.

In 2005 David became acutely aware that farm costs were gaining ground on his profit line. "I could see that the farm operation was no longer sustainable". After years of poor advice from consultants, David decided to open the door and open his mind to any "snake oil rep who came down the drive way". A visit from Bill Thompson at Healthy Soils, a company based in Dunedin, sparked an inspiring new way of managing the farm from the soil up.

With this new knowledge around farming, he turned his profitability around, tripling profits; through optimising soil health, reducing costs, maximising weight gains, reproduction and increased DM production.

Shortlands Station replaced acid based ferts with a full biological strategy of solid fertilizer toped up with fish based liquids. Chemicals are now kept to a bare minimum as they are no longer required. "The results were astounding. George and Bill (at Health Soils) had explained that our biology was decimated and could take up to 5 years to correct. We were not expecting a result like this in the first year."

The animal health costs, when compared to the NZ Beef and Lamb benchmarks, average $2.00 less per stock unit. Swede crops have doubled and all signs of rot have been nurtured out of the soil. Lambing rates have risen from 103% to 128%, less drenching is required, lambs are finishing faster and pastures are lasting longer

Driven by the on-farm results David took part in scientific trials with Dr Peter Espie from AgScience. Dr Espie has measured unprecedented lifts in DM per unit of input, illustrating how the biological approach is far more efficient than the current farming system. A paper has been submitted for review for the Grasslands Conference in November.

"The science is now there to back what farmers and growers around the country have been reporting," says the event organiser Nicole Masters, from Integrity Soils, "not only does the science support biological soil practices, it has exceeded our expectations in providing proof of concept; that yes indeed optimising biology leads to increases in dry matter and production."

The field day and GAIA Award dinner events were held in Rotorua, and Christchurch attracting a wide range of farmers, growers, iwi, industry and political representatives.

The Rotorua Dinner was opened by Te Taru White, deputy chairman of Te Arawa Federation of Maori Authorities followed by call to action by Mayor Stevie Chadwick who had been inspired by the opportunities offered by the biological farming approach to land management.

Dr Christine Jones, the keynote speaker and author of the first Green Ag Innovation Awards in Australia clearly showed how methods enhancing biological activity enabled producers to profitably reduce nitrogen and acidic phosphate applications.

With the huge success of this inaugural event, future Awards will follow to recognise and celebrate the success of producers who are showcasing that low input does not mean low output.


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