Farm­ers must adapt quickly to end pol­lu­tion

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Mata­mata dairy farm­ers, like all New Zealand dairy farm­ers, need to work with sci­en­tists and in­dus­try bod­ies to evolve new farm­ing sys­tems so that they can farm within nu­tri­ent lim­its, an agri­cul­tural con­fer­ence was told re­cently.

An Uni­ver­sity of Waikato econ­o­mist, As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Graeme Doole, told the Aus­tralian Agri­cul­tural & Re­source Eco­nomics So­ci­ety’s con­fer­ence that the im­pacts on wa­ter qual­ity from the growth of dairy farm­ing will need to be ad­dressed and there will have to be a cor­rec­tion to the farm­ing sys­tems that have evolved over the past 200 years.

‘‘Farm­ers have suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped ef­fi­cient and highly pro­duc­tive sys­tems of farm­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘The is­sue now is that they will need to evolve th­ese sys­tems to re­duce their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

The econ­o­mist, who acts as an ad­viser to the gov­ern­ment on wa­ter is­sues, said gen­er­ally around 75 to 90 per cent of ni­tro­gen eaten by cows was lost in urine.

The Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment for Fresh­wa­ter Man­age­ment will bring about fresh­wa­ter qual­ity lim­its that will re­quire farm­ers to have sys­tems that can re­duce their nu­tri­ent leach­ing and loss of sed­i­ment and mi­crobes. ‘‘It is not just about ni­tro­gen. ‘‘We have a multi-fac­tor pol­lu­tion is­sue and it’s also about man­ag­ing phos­pho­rus, e- coli and sed­i­ment im­pacts on our wa­ter­ways. We’ve got to move away from this ni­tro­gen fix­a­tion,’’ he says.

Doole is con­fi­dent that mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures will be de­vel­oped that can be cost-ef­fec­tive for farm­ers to im­ple­ment. ‘‘To get a lower ni­tro­gen farm­ing sys­tem, we will have to be cre­ative and farm­ing will have to evolve and look at grow­ing their use of dif­fer­ent kinds of feeds like lucerne and maize silage.’’

He said there are packages of cost­ef­fec­tive mea­sures to deal with phos­pho­rus in par­tic­u­lar like ri­par­ian plant­ing, strate­gic use of wet­lands for hill coun­try farm­ers and cre­at­ing buf­fer zones for wa­ter­ways.

He ac­knowl­edged that deal­ing with ni­tro­gen will be a lot harder for farm­ing busi­nesses. ‘‘ That’s why it’s im­por­tant we en­sure that eco­nomic anal­y­sis prop­erly in­forms the pol­icy mak­ing process, so the com­mu­nity as well as the farm­ers re­alise the costs of the op­tions that we’ll have to con­sider,’’ he said.

Although he said it was go­ing to be re­ally tough to find mea­sures for re­duc­ing ni­tro­gen leach­ing that kept farm­ers prof­itable, farm­ers in the Lake Taupo area es­pe­cially are show­ing the way, as they have been farm­ing within nu­tri­ent lim­its for some years now.

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