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AgResearch welcomes Govt’s commitment to primary

AgResearch welcomes Government’s commitment to primary sector

13 February, 2007

Speaking at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu near Gore today AgResearch CEO Dr Andrew West said that the Prime Minister’s commitment to the primary sector, announced in her speech to parliament yesterday, was greatly encouraging.

“In the past we have attempted to diversify this economy at the expense of our R&D investments in food, beverages and textiles. Now we are saying it is legitimate and desirable to invest in research in this country’s greatest strengths. That, frankly, is a relief and a recipe for success. Never have farming food and textiles needed science more than they do now.”

He said pressure on resources poses significant challenges to farmers throughout the country and that environmental sustainability was often closely linked to economic sustainability in farming.

“Water is a precious resource and increasing numbers of dairy conversions mean a greater uptake from the water table Greater intensification means reduced flexibility in times of shortage. It also means more use of nitrogen fertilisers – up from about 35 thousand tonnes of nitrogen in 1985 to around 350 thousand tonnes today”

Dr West said with the high price of fertiliser today, driven by the dual forces of high world demand and the high price of hydrocarbons used to make fertiliser, intensifying sustainably is becoming an economic challenge as well as an environmental challenge.

Parasite resistance in livestock is a threat to productivity, because parasites appear to be developing resistance to many existing drenches, he said.

“If we fail to prevent resistance from developing, the only alternative will be to use the newest and most expensive drench products – an example of how biological sustainability is closely tied to economic sustainability in farming.”

Dr West said these and other challenges can be met by utilising New Zealand’s primary sector research and development capabilities. For farmers to realise the potential in these capabilities, it is important for industry good organisations to work together.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of her Government’s commitment to food and pastoral research is most encouraging, as is her Government’s commitment to research into sustainable farming practices.”

He said an exciting opportunity lies ahead in the area of greenhouse gas mitigation. “With agriculture making up about half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, our sector’s environmental challenges are seen as having a global impact, as well as local impacts on soils and waterways.

“Government has already committed to additional funding for greenhouse gas mitigation research in pastoral agriculture. In the long term, the results of such research could give New Zealand pastoral agriculture a distinct advantage in a global marketplace where consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of agriculture.

“The economic benefits of this work to the agriculture sector should not be under-estimated either, especially after the requirement for carbon trading is applied from 2013 onwards.”

Dr West said while collaboration between private enterprise, AgResearch, other research entities and industry good organisations was key, external factors must be considered and R&D needed to be market led.

“At AgResearch we have a real passion for supporting New Zealand’s food and textiles industries and the farming that underpin these – pastoral agriculture has always and continues to underpin this country’s economy and will do so into the foreseeable future.”


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