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Hold out in a drought

Hold out in a drought
Media Release Hort Research
August 20, 1999


Hold out in a drought

Prolonged drought results in a shortage of traditional stock feed, but this could possibly be overcome by the use of alternative forms of feed, such as trees and shrubs.

The kind of story that has prompted a growing interest in trees and silvipastoral systems as stock fodder is that told by a Wellington Regional Council Land Management Officer of three properties that in the last drought used their considerable resources of poplars and willows as stock feed. The farmers did not de-stock and, furthermore, these farms quickly returned to status quo after the drought.

HortResearch's poplar and willow breeder Lindsay Fung said there has been keen support for fodder research from farmers and regional councils and he thought the time was right to "gather" together researchers, practitioners, advocates and advisors to look at fodder issues. He initiated a meeting of representative of all interested parties to establish a Fodder Research and Technology Transfer Group.

The group consisted of farmers who have used fodder from trees or shrubs in drought situations, land management officers from regional councils in summer dry areas, farm and forest consultants, and researchers from Massey University and three CRI's (Forest Research, AgResearch and HortResearch). From this meeting has come a small task force to look at the role of tree and shrub species, including poplars and willows, as stock food.

The task force aims to identify gaps in information and the need for research. They intend to work out the best means of making available data to end users; to consider the role of fodder trees and shrubs in the context of frequency and severity of droughts; and to explore the best funding options for research.

Dr Fung said the meeting agreed that cost and benefits need to be clearly identified and that there needs to be more work on suitable species identification.

"An important point is to get information out to the users. One of the priorities of the group will be to gather information from both scientific literature and real life situations, and present this in a form that is easily accessible to landowners wishing to find out more about fodder production" Dr Fung said. "There needs to be a distinction between annual and drought fodder production and there also needs to be a distinction between systems intended for fodder only and those involving integrated benefits of which fodder is only one use".

Examples of fodder use include shelterbelts, conservation plantings (riverbank protection, wasteland afforestation, erosion control), and purpose planted fodderbanks.

There is also the importance of focusing on systems most likely to be adopted by farmers and other land users, but without excluding research into untried species and systems.

Genetic improvement to improve leaf biomass production, drought, salinity, rust and disease tolerance and improve wood and fibre properties were other research areas that could also assist end users.

ENDS

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