Mixed pastures drought-proofing NZ famrs
5 August 2013
For immediate release
Mixed pastures (not GE ryegrass) are the already successful method for drought-proofing NZ farms - and cutting nitrogen leaching in half
The Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group is advising scientists and agribusiness investors not to waste any more time and effort – let alone millions of dollars – on trying to genetically engineer ryegrass to withstand drought caused by climate change.
“I hope no farmers – or politicians – are taken in by the exaggerated and emotive pleading of genetic engineering proponents to support work on these expensive and ineffective approaches to the very real environmental challenges faced by farming today”, says ODPG Chair Glenn Mead.
“The facts are that we already have all the science we need on how to drought-proof pastures – and at the same time reduce nitrogen leaching – and it doesn't cost more than a few bags of seed and the time to sow them.”
Two recently-released dairy pasture research studies,* conducted independently of each other, have shown scientifically that mixed species pastures are much more resilient and productive in dry conditions than ryegrass and clover alone. They also leach 50-60% less nitrogen.
The organic dairy farms that were studied by Massey University scientists during the four year Grow Organic Dairy project were already aware of the value of having mixed species pastures in terms of drought-proofing and animal health. However, they were not aware of the role of mixed pastures in reducing nitrogen leaching until their farms were measured using the Overseer programme.
This effect has been independently verified by the three year Dairy NZ study that looked at the impact of adding three more species (chicory, plantain and lucerne) to the standard ryegrass and clover mix and found that cows fed on mixed pasture excreted half the amount of nitrogen in their urine compared to cows on standard pasture.
“ This has big implications in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture”, says Mr Mead. “About 50% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. We now have three good reasons for converting all pastures to mixed pastures as soon as possible. It will save us a lot of money and prevent a lot of distress – starting right now. GE rye grass can't do it now – and it will never do it.”