The DairyNZ-led Tararua Plantain Project, which focuses on improving water quality, won the team and collaboration award at the Primary Industries New Zealand Awards last night.
“This game-changing project has community at its heart, with dairy farmers, community members, iwi, DairyNZ and partners working together to reduce environmental footprint in the district,” says DairyNZ sustainable dairy general manager David Burger.
The project supports local dairy farmers to understand and adopt the grazing herb plantain in their pastures, which helps improve water quality by reducing nitrogen leaching to waterways.
“The impact of the Tararua project as a blueprint for farmers to take up plantain in catchments nationwide cannot be understated,” says Dr Burger. “Research shows Ecotain plantain in pastures can reduce nitrogen leaching from dairy farms by 20 to 60 percent. Plantain also has potential to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.”
So far through this project, 88 dairy farmers in the Tararua District now have plantain on their farms, and learnings are shared with other farmers.
DairyNZ partners in the Tararua project with Agricom, MPI, Fonterra and Nestlé. Delivery partners include AgResearch, Horizons and Massey University. The work is part of broader dairy sector commitments, programmes and on-farm work to reduce footprint.
Tararua dairy farmers Thomas and Jennifer Read with their children Annabelle, Eleanor and Jonathan. Photo credit: Brad Hanson.
“Farmers care about their local waterways and the Tararua Plantain Project also sees farmers monitor their own streams to understand ecosystem health and where to focus their environmental work,” says Dr Burger.
Plantain use is predicted to lead to flow-on benefits to national and regional economies, and to save farmers more than $1 billion per decade.
The Tararua Plantain Project helped inspire a national DairyNZ-led Plantain Potency and Practice Programme, with industry, government and farmers continuing to work together to research the effects of plantain and support farmers to successfully adopt it on farms.
The national programme’s farm trial research at Massey University has shown that mixed pastures containing 30-50% plantain can achieve reductions in nitrate leaching from dairy farms of 20-60%, helping to reduce nitrogen losses to waterways.
The programme’s Lincoln University farm trial in Canterbury, on lighter soils under irrigation, shows similar trends. More data is being collected in both trials.
The programme will develop and tailor advice for farmers in other areas, including looking at the effects of different soil and climate conditions.
More info: dairynz.co.nz/tararua
Tararua Plantain Project highlights
- 88 dairy farmers in the Tararua District have plantain on their farms
- 11 partner farmers have case studies and monitoring of plantain effects carried out on their farms
- 24 project events held over 2021-23 to share project knowledge with farmers and the community
- 3,189 hectares plantain planted in mixed pastures. 104 hectares plantain crop
- More than 560 monthly water quality monitoring samples taken by farmers across 21 sites
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