“The prediction that farming north of the Waimakariri River will increase nitrate levels appears to be based on the key assumption that land users are not working on reducing nitrogen loss,” says DairyNZ’s general manager of policy and advocacy, Carol Barnao.
“ECan recently announced that over 90 percent of dairy farmers in Canterbury currently farm to individual environment plans that they need to have in place to get a land use consent.
“A crucial part of these plans is the reduction in nitrogen losses – effectively, an average 24 percent reduction across each dairy farm in the region is required.
“While dairy is not the only contributor of nitrate – a range of different land uses, from horticulture to industry to urban, also contribute nitrate into waterways – dairy farmers are already working to reduce nitrogen loss from land, and improve water quality. They have fenced off their waterways, planted along them, and put in expensive effluent management systems.
“Dairy is also well on the way to finding long-term and effective solutions to reducing nitrates, but it will take time, it will take continued innovative science and research, and it will take continued farmer effort.”
Ms Barnao adds that among the solutions are the development of grass and crop species that lower the nitrogen produced by ruminants, as well as breeding animals that also produce less nitrate.
“ECan does also point out, that while it predicts nitrate levels to rise in drinking water, levels will remain below the Maximum Accepted Value.”
DairyNZ senior communications & media specialist
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