Through research we want to provide farmers with ways to:
- Reduce livestock urinary N excretion.
- Sustain high levels of feed and animal production.
- Hold more N in soil and reduce the amount of potentially leachable N.
- Maximise yield and N use efficiency in forage crops.
- Provide solutions that can be readily integrated into dairy, arable, beef/sheep or mixed farming systems.
Dairy, arable (crop) and sheep and beef farms are involved in the cross-sector project which is focusing on three areas – alternative pasture species, crops and farm systems.
Hover over the map below and click on the hotspots for more information.
Alternative pasture species
Experimental research is underway on crop and pasture species now available to farmers and initial results can be expected within a year.
Alternative pasture species with lower nitrogen (N) content, cool-season growth or which are deeper rooting (including chicory, plantain, Italian ryegrass and lucerne) are being compared for yield, N uptake and plant characteristics, such as N content.
Crop and pasture management
The effect of management on crop and pasture yield and quality is also being investigated, which includes irrigation, grazing, fertiliser application, crop establishment, crop rotations
and effluent management.
The research will look at how management can improve the plant N uptake from the soil and reduce surplus intake of N by grazing animals, ultimately reducing N excretion and nitrate leaching.
Another focus involves co-developing farm systems that incorporate new mitigation options developed through the programme.
Research results will be built into plant, animal and farm system models (such as the DairyNZ whole farm model) to test scenarios and new mitigation options will be demonstrated on-farm.
A network of monitor farms in Canterbury has been established, with farmers selected through regional field teams within the industry.
The group consists of farmers who are keen to adopt new ideas, have an interest in sustainability and a long-term commitment to their farm.
At present nine farms are in the Canterbury monitor farm network, spread across the region: four dairy farms, two arable farms, two sheep and beef farms, and one mixed arable and dairy farm.
Monitor farmers will contribute to the direction of the research, influence priorities, share experiences and provide a practical check to research.
This first season of the project, the farmers are monitoring current practice to establish base data.
Information being collected includes daily grazing and supplementary feed records, application levels of irrigation, effluent and fertiliser, as well as stock and feed movements on and off the property.
After base data is collected, each farm will be modelled and nutrient loss estimated. Different scenarios from the research will be evaluated with the farmers, with one or more adopted on-farm.
The farmers will also play an important part in identifying risks, barriers to adoption and whether new skills or resources are required for implementation on-farm. Later, farm field days will be held so other farmers can see first-hand how the mitigation options work in practice.
The geographic spread of the monitor farms and range of systems represented means every farmer in Canterbury should have a farm they can identify with.
The cross-sector approach is the first of its kind on this scale and is a commitment from the industry to work together to improve environmental and economic sustainability.
Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching is a DairyNZ-led collaborative research programme that combines the expertise and resources of DairyNZ, AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, Lincoln University, Foundation for Arable Research and Landcare Research.
Inside Dairy and Technical Series articles
Waikato research reveals benefits of using catch crops (Inside Dairy June 2018 )
Getting plantain into your system (Technical Series June 2018)
Grazing systems and less N leaching: plantain trials look promising (April 2018)
Grassroots science holds key to sustainable farming (Inside Dairy July 2018)
Science puts couple on the front foot (Inside Dairy October 2017)
Best irrigation practice saves water and grows more (Technical Series October 2017)
Pasture species mixtures to reduce nitrogen leaching (Technical Series June 2017)
Catch crops for production and environmental benefits (Technical Series March 2017)
Making gains through research (Inside Dairy March 2017)
Focus on forages to reduce urine patch N leaching (Technical Series December 2016)
Two wins from using a catch crop (Inside Dairy November 2016)
Forage systems to reduce nitrate leaching - Regional research (Technical Series November 2014)
Forage systems to reduce nitrate leaching (Technical Series October 2014)
Joint effort targets nitrogen leaching (Inside Dairy November 2015)
Meeting nitrogen leaching reductions while retaining a profitable system - a Selwyn catchment example (Technical Series October 2017)