Farmers acting to cut N loss: survey

Hinds dairy farmers, and their counterparts in Selwyn, are taking steps to reduce farm nitrogen loss, a recent DairyNZ survey shows.

DairyNZ surveyed 235 of 450 dairy farms in the two areas, and all reported positive environmental changes on farm, including improved irrigation efficiency, fertiliser use and new technologies.

DairyNZ solutions and development lead adviser Virginia Serra said the survey showed Selwyn and Hinds farmers were working hard to reduce their footprint.

"Taking steps now to reduce nitrogen losses will help improve water quality over time. We know it isn’t easy, but farmers are on the journey and support is available from DairyNZ, dairy companies and rural professionals."

Survey results indicated 81% of participants had improved irrigation systems or management. More than 50% had changed fertiliser use and improved effluent management.

Some farmers had changed their stocking rate, were using the grazing herb plantain, which reduces nitrogen loss, or had made other changes to benefit the environment.

DairyNZ had been working with farmers in Hinds and Selwyn for three years in a project to help them reduce nitrogen loss, while optimising profit and resilience.

The project, Meeting a Sustainable Future, was trialling options with 40 partner farms and sharing the knowledge with local farmers through field days and events.

The work was designed to help farmers meet Environment Canterbury and government rules, Mrs Serra said.

Under Environment Canterbury rules, Selwyn dairy farmers must reduce nitrogen losses by 30% percent by this year compared with their baseline figure from 2009-13.

A farm’s baseline is its average annual nitrogen loss over those four years. In Hinds, farmers have to reduce nitrogen losses over baseline by 15% by 2025, 25% by 2030 and 36% by 2035.

A new nationwide nitrogen cap took effect last July, capping synthetic nitrogen fertiliser applied to pasture at 190kg N/ha/year.

Farmers throughout the country are working hard to achieve this. As part of the Meeting a Sustainable Future project, DairyNZ and partner farmers have hosted more than 20 field days and events to discuss options.

During these events, more than 500 farmers and employees have attended one of these field days or events in the past year (90% of Selwyn and Hinds dairy farms).

Farmers nationwide can learn from the project about options on their own farms.


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