Regenerative agriculture research receives Government funding boost

The Government is investing in two new research projects to investigate the impacts of “regenerative farming” practices.

As NZIAHS members are aware, this is a contentious issue in science circles.  Questions have been raised about the definition of “regenerative” farming and growing and cautions sounded about the need for zealous champions of regenerative practices to base their enthusiasm on reliable New Zealand research data, not on something reported from countries with different conditions and farming methods.

Mr O’Connor announced the government is contributing $2.8 million to a $3.85 million five-year project with co-investment by Synlait Milk and Danone that aims to understand how to measure and manage soil health to boost environmental and economic performance on New Zealand farms.

The announcement on Sunday coincided with World Soil Day, which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinization, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

“We simply cannot take soil health for granted,” O”Connor said.

“It’s the basis of our food systems, and also New Zealand’s economic health.” Continue reading

Wool brands push for regenerative farming

Four major New Zealand Wool brands – the New Zealand Merino Company, Icebreaker, Allbirds and Smartwool –  announced this morning they are creating a new system to buy from regenerative wool farmers to try and reduce the environmental impact of sheep farming.

The ZQrx programme is launching with 167 sheep farmers who are trying new techniques to make their farms active regenerative, RNZ reported this morning.

It’s an upgrade on an existing ZQ structure which measures the sustainability of wool farms. The New Zealand Merino Company says sustainability isn’t enough and active regeneration is required.

Dave Maslen, general manager for markets and sustainability at The NZ Merino Company, and Tui Taylor, director of product development and sustainability at Icebreaker by Nine to Noon presenter Kathryn Ryan to discuss the programme.

Maslen says the ZQ programme was first introduced in 2007 and was designed to give brands confidence in the environmental integrity of the wool they purchased and that farms were meeting the highest standards.

“It was also about enabling our brand partners to really confidently communicate with their consumers about how the product was being produced and, in so doing, ascribe value to that way of producing.”

He says it’s been a very successful with more than 120 brands that work with the NZ Merino Company through the programme.

“Fundamentally, it’s enabled us to develop long-term forward contracts for those growers at really strong market prices. Our growers know that two or three years out how much they’re going to get paid for their wool and the type of wool they’re going to need to produce.”

Taylor says sustainability has been in the DNA of Icebreaker since it’s founding 25 years ago so the programme is a no brainer for them.

“Now, we need to go to the next level. Being sustainable means being sustainable, we need to actually be regenerative. We need to actually stop all these greenhouse gas emissions, we need to put back into the soil and make sure our merino fibres have a life beyond this generation and the next.

Maslen says the ZQ programme already represents the absolute best standard for wool production in the world. ZQrx will require that farms aren’t just sustainable but are actually improving over time.

“We baseline them at a point in time, and then we come back over time to measure their performance and improvement… as part of that, we provide a whole suite of tools and advice for growers to enable them to do that and make those changes.”

Source:  RNZ

Catchment restoration investment will drive clean water and more jobs

A $20 million injection into catchment groups across the country will deliver hundreds of jobs, training opportunities, and help clean up waterways, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Forestry Minister Shane Jones announced today.

Projects in the Bay of Plenty, Rangitikei, Canterbury, and across Otago will get a share of $10m from the Government’s Jobs for Nature package to help with land restoration, wetland protection, remediation of waterways, planting, pest control, and the increased uptake of farm environment plans.

Catchment group projects in Auckland, King Country, Wairarapa, Tasman, Canterbury, and Otago to enhance water quality, soil conservation and ecological restoration will benefit from $10m from the One Billion Trees fund. Continue reading