Environmental issues 'No. 1 focus'

Farmers listen to a presentation from Lincoln University Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean Prof Grant Edwards about the use of ecotain in a paddock at the university's Ashley Dene Research and Development Station last month. Photos: David Hill
Farmers listen to a presentation from Lincoln University Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean Prof Grant Edwards about the use of ecotain in a paddock at the university's Ashley Dene Research and Development Station last month. Photos: David Hill
Prof Edwards welcomes visitors.
Prof Edwards welcomes visitors.
Prof Edwards explains the use of ecotain.
Prof Edwards explains the use of ecotain.

Reducing on-farm environmental footprints is the top priority at Lincoln University.

Speaking at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm's summer focus day, which was held at the Ashley Dene Research and Development Station on February 22, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean Prof Grant Edwards said managing environmental concerns was the No1 focus.

''How can we progress our farms to maximise production within environmental limits?''

Prof Edwards said the 355ha former sheep farm celebrated its 100th birthday in 2010, before being redeveloped. The research and development station was created in 2016 as a 190ha irrigated dairy farm.

The first winter calving was in August 2016, followed by the first autumn calving last year.

Projects on the farm included the ''forages for reduced nitrate leaching'' programme, including the use of ecotain, innovative agricultural microbiomes, breeding programmes to improve livestock genetics, engineering solutions to reduce nitrate losses, including standoff pads, and the use of eddy covariance flux measures to test carbon sequestration and nitrate losses in the soil.

Prof Edwards said ecotain had been developed from plantain, which four years ago was considered a weed, to reduce the nitrate concentration in cows' urine.

''Plantain is water-based so the more plantain a cow eats, the more you pee - it's like drinking coffee.''

He said trials showed leaching from autumn-applied nitrogen in urine was lower from a mix of Italian ryegrass, white clover and plantain than from standard perennial ryegrass and white clover.

''This result has been repeated about 10 times in lysimeter studies we have conducted.''

The remainder of the farm remained in sheep production and dairy support, including 50ha of dryland sheep and 10ha of irrigated sheep production.

The university also runs a 56ha dairy research farm, while the South Island Dairying Development Centre runs the 160ha Lincoln University Dairy Farm as a demonstration farm on behalf of the university.

-By David Hill

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