Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 

Waterways crying out for nutrient management

April 16th, 2019


By Greg Campbell, Chief Executive

Most of us are under the impression that all of New Zealand has fertile soil that’s great for growing food. It’s more or less a fairy tale.

We do have some good soils, but not enough. Only about 5% of our soils are fertile enough to grow food without some sort of human assistance.

As a nutrient management co-operative, Ravensdown tries to help farmers aim for soil conditions that are ‘just right’ for growing food whether it’s carrots for kids in Pukekohe or clover for cows in Culverden. This “Goldilocks approach” has started to pay dividends.

Over the course of a decade, our laboratory has conducted nearly a million soil tests for farmers which look at things like phosphate levels in the soil or its acidity.

In that time, about 25% have shown fertility levels below the optimum for growing food and where farm nutrients would have an effect. 12% of the soil test results have been above the optimum and so don’t need any more fertiliser or nutrients until they drop back to the optimum levels.

To successfully grow the grass needed to feed livestock, or the fruit and vegetables we buy from the supermarket, we need to put nutrients used by the growing plants back into the soil, or introduce those which were not there in the soil in the first place.

This is true even if, as the recent EAT-Lancet Commission’s global report suggested, the world consumed less meat protein and ate more vegetables. Because fertiliser would still be required to grow all those plants.



The UN’s Global Environmental Outlook states that in 30 years, 10 billion people will be wanting to eat and to feed them will require a 50 per cent increase in food productivity.

So replenishing what the soil and plants need is vital. But we can all agree that what our waterways are crying out for here in our backyard is better nutrient management.

Good advice and smarter farming practice is starting deliver some progress. The National Science Challenge “Our Land and Water” has found that phosphorus has decreased at 40% of measured sites in streams and rivers since 1994 and by 65% of sites since 2004.

The second national LAWA trend report on river water quality between 2008 and 2017 showed that, at 60% of the sites measured, improvements in the amount of ammonium (nitrogen) were being seen.

Over the past year, 2,110 square kilometres have been assessed by Ravensdown consultants for environmental mitigations.

Nobody is getting complacent as there is still a massive task ahead and there are lag effects that mean some data could show things getting worse before they get better.

Other countries’ farm nutrient sectors are dominated by global corporations chasing shareholder profits. New Zealand is mainly served by two local co-operatives who are not here to maximise profits at the expense of the environment.

The awareness of what constitutes a “just right” approach to fertiliser for the sake of the soil, plants and waterways of New Zealand has come on leaps and bounds in the past 10 years. Combined with scientific research, smarter technology and a field-based team of certified advisors advocating changes in farming practice, this approach is starting to have an effect.

There’s no reason why there can’t be a happy ending to this story.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Robertson Speech: Budget Sees Wider Debt Target

"New Zealand is well positioned to face this instability and uncertainty, but we are not immune from its impacts. Growth rates are set to be lower than we have seen in recent years..." More>>

ALSO:

Commerce Commission: Spark Warned Of Broadband Price Rise

The warning follows an investigation into representations Spark made on its website and in emails in August and September 2018, notifying in-contract customers receiving its copper-based broadband service of its decision to increase the price by $5 a month. More>>

Law Commission: Resist Rushing To New “Deepfake” Law

Artificial intelligence techniques can create massive volumes of fake audio, images and video that is incredibly convincing and near-impossible to detect... While it is tempting to respond with new law, the study finds that the long list of current legislation covering the issues may be sufficient. More>>

ALSO:

'Contrary To US Interests': US Lockout Sees Android Ditch Huawei

Effective May 16, 2019, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by adding Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei) to the Entity List. More>>

ALSO: