Riparian planting trials for crops
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.