High-tech investment extends drought forecasting for farmers and growers

The Government is investing in the development of a new forecasting tool that makes full use of innovative climate modelling to help farmers and growers prepare for dry conditions.

The new approach will cost $200,000, jointly funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

It will provide daily drought forecasts out to 35 days. Later, the project will also explore drought predictions up to six months ahead. NIWA currently provides seasonal climate outlooks each month that look three months ahead, but are not drought specific.

“We are harnessing the latest in climate and data science to put information into the hands of the people who can make the best use of it,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“Knowing well in advance when dry conditions are heading your way means you can cut your cloth accordingly at critical times on-farm. Having early warning can help determine stocking levels, water storage and feed management options.” Continue reading

Funding of hemp fibre innovation set to propel New Zealand on to world stage

New Government funding will help a New Zealand hemp fibre company explore untapped opportunities – from soft flooring to food packaging that’s more environmentally sustainable.

The Government is contributing $1.34 million through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) to New Zealand Natural Fibres’ (NZNF) five-year research and development programme project.

NZNF is the only hemp fibre company in New Zealand that controls its own supply chain end-to-end. The company is contributing a further $2 million in cash and in kind to the project.

“We plan to use the SFF Futures funding to develop our hemp growing, processing and marketing capability to ‘go further, faster’ towards taking a global leadership position in the development of industrial and consumer products made from hemp fibre,” says NZNF CEO Colin McKenzie.

“We are very pleased to have received government backing to continue our work with hemp fibre, which has huge potential to be part of the solution to some of the most crucial environmental challenges facing our planet today.

“We’re especially excited about ramping up our work to develop some innovative new products.” Continue reading

MPI backs project to establish internationally competitive hemp seed processing plant

A new project backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) aims to establish a hemp seed processing plant in New Zealand that could be a game changer for the local hemp industry.

MPI is contributing more than $245,000 to Hemp Connect’s 2-year pilot project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

The project ultimately aims to enable locally grown hemp food products to compete with imported varieties. Since 2020, the Levin-based company has been working on creative solutions for processing New Zealand grown hemp more efficiently and reducing production costs. Continue reading

Graduate vets receive MPI funding to work in rural areas

Thirty-four graduate vets are being placed in rural areas, from Kaitaia in the far North to Gore in Southland, through the Government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians (VBS), Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

The successful recipients will each receive funding of $55,000 over five years, in a bid to help ease the shortage of veterinarians working with production animals in our regions.

“It’s well known that there’s a real need for vets, especially in rural areas,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Since it began 12 years ago, the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians has made a big difference in attracting and retaining graduate vets to rural communities that can be challenging to recruit staff to. Continue reading

Major forestry study to assess performance of erosion and sediment control practices

Safeguarding New Zealand’s waterways is the key driver behind a seven-year study into the performance of control practices for reducing erosion and sediment delivered to rivers from forest harvesting.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has partnered with a forestry company, OneFortyOne New Zealand, providing $1.37 million through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to the $3.6 million project.

The project is in its second year, with a long-term monitoring programme now established within control and treatment catchments at OneFortyOne’s Donald Creek Forest, near Tadmor in the Tasman district.

“We want to find out what erosion and sediment control measures work best, and we can only know this through robust real-world studies,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

“This project is exploring the effectiveness of current best practice in sediment control as well as some new innovations. Later in the project, the researchers will construct a large sediment retention pond to see how that measures up compared to traditional methods.

“As well as the benefits of erosion and sediment control, the programme will also compare the costs of different practices.” Continue reading

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

Biosecurity Awards finalists protecting every corner of New Zealand

The 2021 Biosecurity Awards finalists named today show the huge effort under way to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

The 24 finalists named out of a record number of 90 entries include an iwi partnering with local and central government to eradicate wilding pines from their local taonga, Ruawāhia/Mount Tarawera, and a school on Stewart Island/Rakiura whose efforts are keeping Ulva Island pest free.

Biosecurity efforts have even expanded into space, with Xerra Earth Observation Institute’s leading-edge software which is helping protect Aotearoa from pests via international shipping.

Judging panel chairman Dr Ed Massey says the finalists represent a diverse range of individuals, teams, businesses, government agencies, research organisations, iwi, schools, and community groups.

“Judging so many high calibre entries was no easy feat. We saw applications from so many individuals and groups going above and beyond to protect our taonga (precious natural resources) and ensuring New Zealand’s biosecurity is resilient and effective.”

Acting deputy director-general Biosecurity New Zealand Steve Gilbert says the Biosecurity Awards celebrate the outstanding contributions that so many New Zealanders make to safeguard our biosecurity system.

“Now in its fifth year, the awards recognise and celebrate our biosecurity champions. These are people who are stepping up to do something to protect and preserve our environment, primary industries and way of life.

“Their mahi is fundamental in keeping our biosecurity system strong, and in every corner of the country they are putting in the hard yards to ensure we continue to have a world-leading biosecurity system,” he says.

Award winners will be announced at a dinner in Wellington in February 2022. Continue reading

NZ-grown and manufactured Kabochamilk is heading for Asian market

A plant milk made from New Zealand grown kabocha buttercup squash is now hitting supermarket shelves in Asia, thanks to an innovative partnership between a Hawke’s Bay company and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

MPI contributed more than $95,000 through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) to help boost Kabocha Milk Co’s efforts to formulate, manufacture, and market a shelf-stable kabocha milk recipe that would appeal to consumers in Japan, Korea, China, and beyond.

This has been branded under the name ‘Kabochamilk’.

Kabochamilk is a collaboration between Shane Newman, one of New Zealand’s largest buttercup squash growers from the Hawke’s Bay, and Sachie Nomura, a Japanese celebrity chef and the brains behind avocadomilk, a world first, award-winning plant milk. Continue reading

Impact Of tile drains on water quality is being investgated

A new project in the Hawke’s Bay is investigating the impacts of tile drains on horticultural land, to provide valuable information about their effect on freshwater quality.

Horticultural tile drains are used to divert excess moisture from the soil. This can help waterlogged land become more productive.

The research project aims to understand whether this diversion of water contributes additional nutrients to our waterways that may impact water quality.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), several key players in the horticulture industry and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have kicked off the project to investigate this further. MPI is contributing $1.34 million through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

“It’s a big knowledge gap currently and a potential issue that the sector is keen to examine proactively,” says Leander Archer, Horticulture and Environment Consultant at AgFirst Consultants Ltd, which is leading the research.

“The horticulture sector wants to ensure that its nutrient use is efficient, and understand if the tile drains are in fact impacting our waterways. If there’s no impact then great, we’ll have the data to prove it, and if there’s an impact at certain times of year or when we face certain types of weather, we want to know about it so we can change our management strategies.”

The project will collect data over three years on 16 commercial properties in the Heretaunga Plains in Hawke’s Bay that are used for growing fruit and vegetables. It will set up two trial sites on each farm, enabling experimentation with new management strategies in year three on one site, while leaving the other as a control.

“The Heretaunga Plains has been selected because it has extensive tile drainage networks and a range of groundwater pressures and soil types, and much of the catchment is used for high-value horticulture. Plus, the Karamū catchment within this area has reported water quality issues,” says Ms Archer.

“Horticulturalists want to grow healthy food that contributes to healthy communities, in a way that cares for the soil and waterways that sustain us all. This research will help them to do that. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, says the outcomes of this research have the potential to provide deeper insights into how the horticultural industry can become more sustainable.

“We all want clean waterways,” says Mr Penno. “The findings will be useful for other regions across the country as well. At the very least we’ll gain more information about whether this is a problem we need to address. And at the most we’ll identify the size of the issue and how to best measure nutrient losses to understand how to mitigate these.”

AgFirst Consultants HB Ltd is currently concluding the site selection process for the trial farms, for monitoring to begin in Spring. Interested growers are encouraged to follow the project through their industry body or can get in touch at hawkesbay@agfirst.co.nz.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

 

Government consults ag/hort sector on freshwater farm plan

The Government is inviting farmers and growers to provide their practical ideas to help develop high-quality and workable freshwater farm plans, in line with its freshwater goals.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker today released the consultation documents for freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion low slope maps.

Comment is being sought on a new, more accurate, mapping approach for stock exclusion that better reflects what farmers see on the ground.

These are part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. Public consultation with farmers, agricultural sector groups, iwi and Māori, councils, and environmental groups will run from 26 July – 12 September.

“I want to thank industry organisations for their input so far, which has improved on original proposals. There are many farmers and growers already committed to practices to improve water quality and it’s vital they have their say and contribute to this consultation,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Taking a farm planning approach is a flexible alternative. It also provides farmers a visible way of showing their sustainability credentials to the markets we sell in to, which will help boost value growth.”

David Parker said improving freshwater quality was important to all Kiwis.

“High-quality freshwater farm plans will provide a practical way for famers to meet the freshwater standards the Government introduced last year, while helping councils play their part.

“Everybody’s feedback will be carefully considered, and we expect the outcome to be released later this year.”

“Working together and getting good ideas from this consultation is important, and that’s why I encourage people to have their say. We believe a significant improvement in freshwater quality is achievable in five years – and we can have healthy waterways within a generation,” David Parker said.

Damien O’Connor said feedback was being sought on the content of freshwater farm plans, what outcomes could be achieved, and how plans could be certified, audited and amended.

“We will also be asking about the balance between using the low slope map and freshwater farm plans for identifying areas for stock exclusion.

“The Government is listening to, and helping farmers and growers as shown already by our work with the sector on He Waka Eke Noa, integrated farm planning and ensuring farmers are using the best practices for intensive winter grazing. This approach and these initiatives are fundamental to our Fit For A Better World roadmap,’’ Damien O’Connor said. 

David Parker said the Government would soon release a review of whether the nutrient management tool, Overseer, will be a useful long term tool. An earlier report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment called for a re-evaluation of Overseer.

“We’re committed to ensuring we have the right settings and tools in place to lift freshwater quality and help people achieve that goal,” David Parker said.

The discussion document is now available on the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries websites.

The online submission forms will be available when the consultation opens on the week of 26 July on the Ministry for the Environment’s website in the have your say section.

Stock exclusion regulations – proposed changes

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/stock-exclusion-regulations-proposed-changes-to-the-low-slope-map

Freshwater farm plan regulations discussion document

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/freshwater-farm-plan-regulations-discussion-document

Freshwater farm plan regulations supporting document

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/freshwater-farm-plan-regulations-regulatory-impact-analysis

Source:  Minister of Agriculture