Sunflowers a rotational crop option for New Zealand growers

Growing sunflowers to produce high-oleic oil could provide additional income for New Zealand growers as a rotational crop during the summer period, new research has found.

The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) has concluded a three-year project looking at crop options to raise profitability and provide alternative land uses. The project received $90,000 through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Sustainable Farming Fund (now superseded by the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund). High-oleic varieties of sunflowers were identified as a promising crop.

“Our research shows we have the conditions in New Zealand for successful sunflower crops, with yield potential in excess of 4.5 tonnes per hectare,” says Ivan Lawrie, FAR’s general manager business operations.

“What’s more, consumer demand is strong for high-oleic sunflower oil, which is a top-quality oil with a higher smoke point than regular sunflower oil, and many sought-after health attributes, including low saturated fat content and high monounsaturated fat.” Continue reading

Emissions tools are designed especially for arable farmers

The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) has released a greenhouse gas emissions calculator and a greenhouse gas emissions planning module for arable farmers.

With the simultaneous release of these two bespoke, tools arable farmers quite literally have everything they need to meet their greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting and planning commitments at their fingertips.

Obligations around agricultural greenhouse gas emissions understanding and management are being phased in via the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) industry-government partnership.  Arable as well as livestock farms are expected to comply.

The first step for all farm businesses is to know their annual total on-farm biological greenhouse gas emissions (their ‘number’) and to have a written plan to manage emissions. A quarter of New Zealand farm businesses must know their number and have a plan by the end of this year. That expectation expands to all farmers knowing their number by the end of 2022 and all having a written plan by the end of 2024.

It’s a big challenge and ha’s why FAR developed the two newly released tools, says FAR’s Turi McFarlane. Continue reading

Research finds herbicide resistance is greater than expected

Herbicide resistance is emerging as a serious and growing threat to New Zealand’s food production, with recent surveys by scientists finding half or more of arable farms and vineyards in some regions have weeds resistant to commonly used herbicides.

AgResearch scientists, who are carrying out the first systematic approach to surveying for herbicide-resistant weeds in arable crops with funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, say their results are often many times the levels of resistance that had been expected.

Furthermore, new resistant weed species are being brought forward, or discovered by the AgResearch scientists working alongside the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) and the Bragato Research Institute, as part of the Managing Herbicide Resistance programme which began in 2018. Continue reading

Blackgrass is identified in Canterbury

Biosecurity New Zealand early this month was notified of the detection of three black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) seeds in a 100g sample of ryegrass seed grown in the Ashburton area.

The sample had been submitted for purity and germination testing as part of routine pre-export certification. Samples for analysis of the remainder of the harvest (approximately 14 tonnes) also detected further black-grass seed contamination.

Biosecurity New Zealand consider this find linked to the 2016 Blackgrass response, because the seed in question came from one of the sites under surveillance as part of that response.

Surveillance at that time (2016/17) did not detect any Blackgrass. It is not linked to the 2013 spillage of Blackgrass along the Ashburton-Methven Highway.

Biosecurity New Zealand actions to date:

  • Tracing back to determine the origin of the Blackgrass contamination and if any risk material has moved off farm.
  • Contacted the seed company and confirmed all the affected ryegrass is securely held at the facility;
  • Contacted the property where the seed dressing waste (offal) was delivered, to ensure it is securely held on the property; and
  • Visited the affected property with AsureQuality, where the detection was discussed and it was confirmed that best practice is being followed.
  • Placing a Notice of Direction on the seed and seed offal to ensure unauthorised movement does not occur;
  • Directing seed offal to be destroyed securely by deep burial at the Kate Valley landfill;
  • Working with MPI’s Plant Exports Group to discuss possible conditions of export for the affected seed (to a country which already has black-grass).

The Foundation for Arable Research is advising farmers and growers to keep a lookout for blackgrass.   If it is found or found or suspected, the seed head should not be disturbed.  Instead, a photo should be taken and  the Pest and Disease Hotline called on 0800 80 99 66 to report the suspected find.

Source:  Foundation for Arable Research

Government supports $27 million collaborative project aimed at boosting sustainable horticulture production

The heading on a statement from the office of the Minister of Agriculture was more than somewhat bemusing for those of us in the agscience sector.  It said: Govt backing horticulture to succeed.

But wasn’t horticulture already successful, thanks – at least in part – to good research?

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor acknowledged this – surely – when he said the horticulture sector has long been one of New Zealand’s export star performers.

But let’s not quibble.  The good news beneath the heading tells us the Government is backing a new $27 million project aimed at boosting sustainable horticulture production and New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.

And it looks (fingers crossed) like scientists can expect a slice of the action.

The programme which Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced is called A Lighter Touch. Continue reading

Fusarium head blight in wheat crops – FAR has advice on what should be done

Fusarium head blight is showing up in many wheat crops and should be taken into account during harvest, the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) advises.

There have been widespread recent reports of fusarium head blight (FHB) in wheat crops throughout Canterbury, the foundation says.

Fusarium head blight of wheat, also known as head scab, is most easily recognised on immature heads where one or more spikelets in each head appear prematurely bleached. Sometimes large areas of heads may be affected, and where infection is severe, pink or orange spore masses can be seen on diseased spikelets.

Fusarium-damaged grains are pink or chalky white and shrivelled.

This disease can cause significant yield losses where conditions favour it and grain from affected crops may be less palatable to stock than healthy grain, perhaps containing mycotoxins (a toxin produced by fungi).

The Foundation for Arable Research says it is important to know that not all species of Fusarium produce mycotoxins. F. crookwellense, F. culmorumand F. graminearum can produce mycotoxins but other species are not considered major producers.

The incidence of different species of Fusarium fungi in New Zealand grain varies from year to year and by grain type, harvest date, region and the weather conditions in the season.

A survey in 2000 found that the Fusarium species present in Canterbury were not major producers of mycotoxins. Samples from two wheat crops grown near Methven in December 2018 were identified as Monographella nivalis (snow mould), a species usually included with the Fusarium group of fungi that does not produce mycotoxins.

But because FAR does not know if all the recent reports of FHB are caused by non-mycotoxin producing species, growers are advised to take precautions to minimise the risk of harvesting and storing Fusarium-contaminated grain.

Wet weather promotes Fusarium development and during flowering (GS60-69) crops are particularly susceptible to head blight infection. The higher the rainfall through flowering the higher the risk.

Rainfall through December was high in Canterbury ranging from 62 mm at Chertsey to 177 mm at Methven. At harvest, Fusarium mycotoxins may increase if wet weather causes delays. Also, mycotoxins may increase if the grain has a high moisture content in storage.

Suggested Actions:

  • Harvest Fusarium-affected wheat crops as soon as possible once ripe.
  • Consult the combine manual. Combine adjustments should follow the manufacturer’s manual when first going to the field. Once in the field, operators should invest the time to sample the grain and make adjustments.
    • The most important adjustments include concave clearance, screen openings and cylinder and fan speeds. This is particularly important when dealing with compromised grain quality.
    • If it is determined that grain quality is not an issue, more conventional settings should be used to minimize grain loss.
  • Fan speed
    • Many, but not all, Fusarium-infected kernels are shrunken and have lower densities. Increasing the combine’s fan speed can greatly increase the number of lighter kernels blown out the back of the combine.
  • Harvest and store grain with fusarium contaminated grain separately.
  • Good farm practices will minimise the risk of mycotoxins. Damp grain needs to be dried to minimise risk.

Source: Foundation for Arable Research

Funding announced for major new potato research project

Potatoes New Zealand Inc. has won funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries for a major research project aimed at improving crop yield.

The $260,000 three-year project, which will be financed through the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) and managed by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), will investigate the impact of different potato crop rotations on soil borne diseases and soil quality.

Potatoes NZ chief executive Champak Mehta said the project aimed to develop and implement strategies to increase potato yields by 12 per cent, in line with the organisation’s industry target.

“This is a very important project and we are delighted to have obtained SFF funding,” said Mr Mehta. “Increase in yield will ensure the economic viability of the potato industry in New Zealand.

The country’s 170-plus potato growers will benefit directly and there will be further benefits to the wider community through the environmental advantages of sustainable cropping systems and secure rural land use.”

FAR chief executive Nick Pyke said the project was developed following extensive discussions with growers about the key problems they face with potato crops.

“That regularly comes back to trying to minimise soil-borne diseases and maximise soil quality which often relates to having the right crop rotations in place and understanding what crops, such as wheat, barley, forage brassica or grass will contribute in the way of benefits to a subsequent potato crop.

“This research is about understanding which crops are best suited to potato rotation through minimising soil borne disease and maximising soil quality.”

The project will begin in July and be carried out in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu/Whanganui and Canterbury with input from organisations including FAR and Plant & Food Research. Detailed research will be carried out on small plots at two locations, most likely Auckland and Lincoln. Further monitoring and trials will be carried out on farms practising potato crop rotations.