Ri­par­ian plant­ing tri­als for crops

South Canterbury Herald - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - ELENA MCPHEE

A na­tional pi­lot project de­signed to help crop­ping farm­ers re­duce sed­i­ment run-off in wa­ter­ways has been pro­posed - and will hope­fully fill a gap in knowl­edge, its or­gan­is­ers say.

The scheme tri­alling dif­fer­ent types of ri­par­ian plant­ing on crop­ping farms around the coun­try was pitched to the Lower Waitaki South Coastal Can­ter­bury water zone com­mit­tee last week, and the com­mit­tee has given the idea its sup­port.

The project will be a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween farm­ers and other in­dus­try play­ers, as well as the Foun­da­tion for Arable Re­search (FAR) and En­vi­ron­ment Can­ter­bury - which have both pro­vided fund­ing .

The trial will com­pare the ef­fec­tive­ness of a range of ‘‘set­back widths, species and cul­ti­va­tion prac­tices’’ and will in­clude six tri­als in three dif­fer­ent re­gions, on flat and slop­ing land.

One of the test sites would be South Can­ter­bury, and the chair­man of the project team, crop­ping farmer Colin Hurst, was based near Makik­ihi.

Hurst said the re­sults would fill a gap in knowl­edge, with farm­ers ul­ti­mately learn­ing how to re­duce sed­i­ments and phos­pho­rous from reach­ing wa­ter­ways.

Test­ing would be car­ried out in four lo­ca­tions in the South Is­land - and in the sec­ond year the trial would be ex­panded to two sites in the North Is­land.

‘‘There is re­search into buf­fer ar­eas for dairy and live­stock but there’s a real lack of data for crop­ping farm­ers,’’ Hurst said.

‘‘We want to have the science to make the rules jus­ti­fi­able. There’s very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion that we are aware of on crop­ping.

‘‘We will also be look­ing at the po­ten­tial of us­ing peren­nial wheat as a set­back plant as it has been used in other places around the world for ero­sion con­trol.’’

The project team was hop­ing to get the first stage of the project un­der­way next year, and fund­ing has been sought from the Sus­tain­able Farm­ing Fund.

FAR sci­en­tist Abie Hor­rocks said if fund­ing was not avail­able from the fund it would need to be found else­where, or the project would po­ten­tially have to be ‘‘re­shaped’’.

Hor­rocks said the to­tal cost of the project could not yet be dis­closed.

FAR and ECan had pledged fund­ing to the project, and other par­tic­i­pants said they would con­trib­ute ‘‘in kind’’, giv­ing their time and ex­per­tise, Hor­rocks said.

Hurst said a ‘‘huge amount of work’’ had gone in be­hind the scenes.

Zone com­mit­tee chair­woman Kate White de­scribed the project as an ’’ex­cel­lent’’ ini­tia­tive.

‘‘What I love about this project is that it will be so use­ful for our lo­cal farm­ers in hilly ar­eas. They will be able to make great en­vi­ron­men­tal gains, which also make sense eco­nom­i­cally,’’ White said.

The re­port pre­pared for the zone com­mit­tee meet­ing said many re­gional coun­cil land and water plans had rules around set­backs near wa­ter­ways, but the prob­lem was there was no con­sis­tent ap­proach.

Soil tests and sed­i­ment sam­pling will be car­ried out in or­der to com­pare each type of plant­ing.


Crop­ping farmer Colin Hurst with a sec­tion of ri­par­ian plant­ing on his farm.

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