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success of the Mid Canty

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Just answer this question correctly and go in the draw to win Dairy Nation – The story of dairy farming in New Zealand. Question: What district was the Ashburton cheese and butter factory in? Write your answer on the back of an envelope and send it to the Ashburton Guardian, PO Box 77, Ashburton or email to Nadine.P@theguardian.co.nz by November 23.

The Mid Canterbury arable industry continues to thrive because its farmers have embraced diversity and change, and have adapted to growing complex crops. Twenty years ago cereal crops were still very much the traditional commodity and with that came the volatility that those in the dairy industry are experiencing today. But innovators in small seeds quietly grew their businesses – at first through proprietary seeds. These companies developed markets in Asia, Europe and North America and as they did so too have they given the cropping farmer an extensive range of specialist seed crops with which they can balance the portfolio of risk on-farm. Dairy farming has to some extent saved the cereal industry and made sure it continues to be part of farmers’ rotation, but there is no reliance on the performance of wheat, barley and oats. Instead seed crops like radish,

Nadine Porter


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linseed, Asian brassicas and carrots have become the new normal in any rotation. Farmers and companies alike are to be applauded for this shift in thinking. While diversity makes for complexities on-farm, it also decreases risk. Now Mid Canterbury is a jewel in the New Zealand arable crown. Through irrigation, innovative businesses and skilled farming the future of the arable industry is ensured and is sustainable.

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We appreciate your feedback. Editor Email your comments to nadine.p@theguardian.co.nz or phone 03 307 7957.

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Mid Canty the world’s seed bowl Ironically the dairy expansion into Canterbury helped to create a strong sustainable specialist seed industry and guaranteed a future for arable farmers. Nadine Porter sits down with the dresser, the producer and the overseas buyer and discovers sustainability and why our arable farmers are the best in the world.

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On a typically temperate Mid Canterbury October day three men are undertaking crop inspections around the district. It may seem like a lacklustre afternoon but in reality it’s an outward sign of the success of the small seed industry and how the Canterbury region has become one of the most important seed producing areas in the world. Bizarrely it’s a story not well known outside of the Plains, but for arable farmers, passionate about growing tomorrow’s food the story

of the plethora of specialist crops now flourishing every season is a story of their livelihoods. Once bowed by cereal commodity prices and water starved pastures they now have a diversity in cropping rotations and risks and a depth of knowledge to ensure that crops that once seemed high risk and tricky to grow, have now become their daily butter. For Townsend Seeds director Chris Burrows it has been a story of stable growth. Originally a forage company since its inception to making a conscious decision to grow higher value vegetable seeds eight years ago, the company has, like its growers, experienced good growth. The decision to move into higher value seed crops came as it became apparent dairying would dramatically expand into the district on the back of high milk returns. “We wanted to provide an


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income to our farmers that was going to be a per hectare equivalent or better.” But in order to do that there needed to be the infrastructure to process the crops and the need for investment from dressing companies such as South Island Seed. Based out of Lincoln and with a staff of six, Townsend Seeds works in with Japanese owned Sakata Seeds. It’s one of many

relationships Chris and his team has built overseas, spending at least two months every year talking with overseas clients and building new relationships. With small seeds exported to over 40 countries worldwide, the communication within the global industry and domestically means knowledge is often pooled and shared for the greater good. continued over page

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SOWING THE SEEDS OF SUCCESS From P3 “Even in New Zealand there are three to four major companies who are all competitors but still work together. It’s not colluding. We work in different regions but we all have the same issues about how to move a crop and get it to the right gradings.” It’s an example of how an industry can progress when the main players share their issues and attempt to solve them together and the trickle down effect means farmers have benefited. “Most farmers don’t deal with one company

so the knowledge base has slowly evolved and shared. That doesn’t mean we’re not competitive in what we do – at the end of the day we all compete for the same slice of pie.” Partnerships with overseas buyers such as Sakata also give companies access to extensive cultivar programmes and a quicker understanding of consumer trends. Sakata’s United States arm alone has breeders exclusively assigned to each vegetable it grows. Beet is the main crop here for Sakata but the end use changes as consumer tastes change. Developing an off season vegetable seed programme for the likes of Sakata has been crucial for the industry according to Chris and has helped establish New Zealand as a viable alternative. “We have been recognised now as a genuine alternative for seed production (in the off season). I think once, we used to be treated like the ginga stepchild but now we are recognised as a really solid option. Reliability is huge.”

Demand will only continue to rise as world population grows and the pressure on food resources increase, he says. He rates New Zealand arable farmers as among the best in the world and believes the natural attrition over the past two decades has left a core base of highly skilled and knowledgeable farmers able to grow a complex array of seed crops. The change in mind-set from broad acre farming to row cropping has taken time and Chris believes our farmers are almost at the level of treating each vegetable seed crop like another crop of barley because their skills have risen to such a high level. The growth in technology and investment from cleaning and dressing companies means our infrastructure has met the same pace as the growth in crops. Townsend Seeds has also become part of that story having set up a contracting division that includes specialised equipment like precision planters. “We firmly believe in the arable scene in New Zealand, especially the higher value

MID CANTERBURY’S ARABLE INDUSTRY SUPPLIES 50 per cent of world requirements for radish seeds 35 per cent of world requirements for white clover seeds 33 per cent of world requirements for carrot seeds 30 per cent of world requirements for Bok Choi seeds 25 per cent of all NZ feed grains 60 per cent of the seeds for growing pasture — underpinning a $9bn export industry (Statistics from Grow Mid Canterbury) small seeds and we are investing heavily in that.” Chris says he is constantly looking for what can be grown and in what area but also tries to balance risk by growing forage crops. “Because you have to weather

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the storm because not every market is going to be on a high.” This season Chris believes small seed crops have increased in the region and says even some dairy farmers are growing beet this year.



becoming a full-time business keeping up with change.”

US company sees New Zealand as off season choice

Viewing the new colour sorter at South Island Seed. From left SID director Brent Clarke, Sakata Seeds America production manager, Stephan Strand and Townsend Seeds International Ltd director Chris Burrows.

“All companies have increased volumes which is a good sign for the farming community and ensures the industry’s sustainability.” There are still challenges ahead, Chris says, including reliability, currency and trade

barriers. Domestically water, compliance costs and fertility will be key in the future. “Red tape and legislation is a big worry and government intervention. They keep trying to change the rules. It’s

For 18 years Stephan Strand has travelled to Canterbury to inspect small seed crops. As production manager for Sakata Seeds America, Stephan has a close relationship with New Zealand customers and has seen a “huge difference” in farmers’ mind-sets over that time. “One is the mind-set of the farmers going from broad acre to row cropping, two is the irrigation. When I first came it was sheep and grass but even last year there was new water systems coming in.” He has had a first-hand view of the extraordinary knowledge bank the industry has built up here and appreciates the reliability management, a temperate climate and water has given the industry. Originally Stephan said his company treated the New Zealand small seed industry as somewhere it could “catch up” should its supplies not

meet expectations but that has changed dramatically. “I believe that is not true now and it’s now become a stable consistent area for production.” The ability to access quality product at a reasonable price were the two main factors for Sakata Seeds America coming to New Zealand and staying. “The fluctuation of the American dollar can help or hurt but price isn’t everything – it’s consistency of supply and timing to the market.” While New Zealand farmers have increased their growing knowledge Stephan believes they still have much to learn about row cropping. “They have gained a huge amount of knowledge already but there are still some that are new to irrigation but who have the ability to learn.” For farmers yield is key but for Stephan it’s not always about production with taste, flavour and colour vital in the competitive salad market. “There is a big difference between crop yield and market yield. We are breeding for the end user market.” continued over page

SAKATA SEEDS AMERICA Sakata Seeds America was established in 1977 as a research, production and sales division of Sakata Seed Corporation. Their mission is to quickly and efficiently meet industry expectations for quality seed, strong performance and excellent yields, as well as retail and consumer demand for delicious fruit and vegetables. Headquartered in Morgan Hill, California, their research facilities include stations in Salinas, California; Yuma, Arizona; and Fort Myers, Florida. These facilities focus on vegetable breeding and trialling.

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SOWING THE SEEDS OF SUCCESS From P5 Beet seed grown here can end up as beetroot in Europe or at baby beet leaf markets in California. While the small seed market in the States is strong at present, New Zealand is now equally important in Sakata Seeds America’s system – and he can’t see that changing. “We’ve had to make a decision to commit here to ensure production. We’ve made that step and will continue to do so that everyone can spend money on the equipment that’s needed without worrying that we’ll bail.”

South Island Seeds invests in the future

South Island Seeds is investing in the future of the small seeds industry by continually seeking out the best technology to ensure New Zealand’s reputation for quality remains high. Director Brent Clarke said he recognised the level of technology they needed to be in the market and knew his business couldn’t get left

behind. His commitment as well as others in the small seed sector has taken the industry from being a small part of an arable farmer’s rotation to an essential one.

We are a long way from markets so we have to sell at premium prices ...

The company’s importance in Canterbury was highlighted when Prime Minister John Key recently visited where he conceded to being surprised by the scale of the operation. “It’s (the small seed industry) much bigger than I would have thought. I didn’t realise it had so much domination on a world scale, particularly with carrots, and in China and Asian markets as well.” While the common perception was a district economy reliant on the dairy

industry, Mr Key said the robust small seed industry highlighted the diversity in the agricultural sector. He was also impressed with the technology in the SISD plant and the company’s international presence. “They (SISD) are selling into Asian markets at a premium, and that niche in the market demands very high quality products,” Mr Key said. “We are a long way from markets so we have to sell at premium prices, and to do that we have to have the best product, this company is doing that very well.” Brent believes the future for small seeds is rosy and says the farmers he deals with are passionate about their industry and skilled at what they do. “I’ve got a lot of guys that have said they’ve done the sums on dairying but they do what they do because they have a passion for it. They are often the best farmers.” While knowledge on how to grow crops is evolving, risks are being managed, he said.

BABY LEAVES THE NOUVELLE SALAD CUISINE IN THE STATES Trendy salad leaves are a big market for companies like Sakata Seed America where taste and colour are key. Beet seed crops grown in New Zealand can end up becoming baby beet leaves in salads in California.

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Consistency key New Zealand is considered the one of the lowest risk small seed production area in the world – a reputation built by time and a willingness by all in the industry to diversify and learn. Nadine Porter talks to PGG Wrightson Seeds general manager of production and NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association councillor George Gerard about consistence and challenges…...





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FREE PLANS WITH ALL SHEDS Tasmania grows many small seed crops like carrots but lacks the infrastructure and scale to compete.

It’s a mark of how successful the small seeds industry is when you consider that PGG Wrightson Seeds is a core segment of the giant agri-businesses firm. Production manager George Gerard says the most profitable part of the business has always been in proprietary small seeds. Initially the small seed market was mainly driven by commodity grasses like Nui and Huia, but the advent of proprietary seeds saw the market grow to a point where there are hundreds of small seeds varieties produced by growers today. With that has come a significant change in arable farming rotations – something George believes helps the sustainability of the New Zealand cropping farmer. “I don’t think New Zealand arable farmers could survive on cereal production alone – it’s too marginal. And the market is not big enough to absorb the capacity.” It may have been a slow start with fewer options for farmers (around only 10 varieties 20 years ago) but as awareness and expertise grew the industry began to multiply seed for other countries. George said today’s seed multiplication market is driven by demand out of Europe for traditional products like ryegrass and clover and the Asian market in vegetable seed. “The multiplication market has really proliferated to the point where there is a huge range of small seed material grown in New Zealand now.” While those options have added complexity on farm, it has also given


them more options than was available previously to the point of being their “bread and butter”. “And that’s extremely valuable to New Zealand.” George believes our natural advantage in growing seeds lies in our climate and says the ability to control inputs via irrigation and manage the maturity of the crop effectively creates an ideal production base. “We’ve also got fantastic infrastructure and expertise right across the supply chain and the growers are well equipped with good access to cultivation equipment, high speed harvesters, on farm storage and very good drying facilities.” Also having around 30 processing stores in Canterbury alone adds up to good control of seed right throughout the supply chain. Now exporting our seed to around 80 countries, the industry has a good understanding on what the market wants and can turn it around promptly to get it offshore efficiently, he said. But it’s our reputation for consistency that really sets us apart according to George. “New Zealand is one of the lowest risk production areas in the world. Even the likes of Tasmania are risky – they are certainly improving as they build infrastructure and irrigation but when mainland Australia is already experiencing 40 degree days it doesn’t take much to wipe out production.” Chile may be climatically similar to us but they don’t have the same high standards in the supply chain, he said. continued over page

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PGG Wrightson Seeds grows a wide variety of small seeds through farmers.

From P7 The “high credibility” of documentation with New Zealand seed means we are trusted to supply what we say we are selling. However there are challenges going forward

particularly in open pollination of brassicas and anything that requires isolation. “There is starting to be pressure on securing that isolation and that’s really important for us and our customers. That’s the

challenge and the industry is meeting the challenge by looking further afield in areas like South Canterbury, Southland and Marlborough.” The other main challenge is continuing market access for products and the increasing

issues surrounding that, he said. “The direct ramification from the TPP is not so much for growers but for proprietary companies that will force the update of the PVR Act. That’s a big

step forward. It’s taken 20 years.” Whatever the challenges ahead, diversity, according to George, remains the industry’s greatest strength and will ensure a strong future to come.

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Small seeds reduce big risks

Mid Canterbury’s small seed industry and the diversification it offers helps to reduce uncertainties and risks associated with other commodity industries, according to the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association. General manager Thomas Chin says the industry offers arable farmers an important and valuable cropping option with higher returns compared to traditional cereal crops. “There are comparatively better returns with specialist seed crops and it means farmers are not so dependent on a single crop type to generate their income.” Mr Chin believes diversification has been easier to achieve in Mid Canterbury due to the right infrastructure being available, particularly irrigation. With $200 million in exports annually, the small seed industry has been a quiet achiever, invaluable to Canterbury’s arable farmers,

Nadine Porter


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and that looked set to continue, Mr Chin said. “There is increasing demand on New Zealand to produce seed for the world because of our clean green image.” He noted New Zealand farmers’ reputation worldwide for producing high quality, disease and pest-free seeds. “And this region has irrigation, fertile soils, farmer expertise, superior seed drying, harvesting and handling technology.”

continued over page

Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy (left) with Thomas Chin, general manager of the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association.


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SOWING THE SEEDS OF SUCCESS From P9 Exporting to a wide variety of countries, including Australia, USA, Europe, Asia and North America, New Zealand vegetable seed crops include carrot, radish, onion, baby leaf vegetables, sweetcorn, Asian brassicas, squash, capsicum, tomato, lettuce and telegraph cucumbers. Mr Chin said seed production also had the benefit of placing less pressure on the land, water and other resources. “It’s also ideal as a break crop and can produce counter seasonality for the Northern Hemisphere during their winter.” While seed has been exported to 40 countries, Canterbury remains the largest area for seed production in New Zealand. “The bottom line is without this seed industry there wouldn’t be too many veges, or bread, or meat on your dinner plate. “It’s not all about dairying – we have a great news story here for cropping and arable farming.”

ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION The industry’s contribution to the New Zealand economy is substantial. NZGSTA members are at the heart of an industry with an annual

production of:

■■ 40,000 tonnes of seed off 40,000 hectares of land. ■■ Seed exports of $200m. Seed is the perfect delivery vehicle for enhanced

industry ■■ 950,000 tonnes of barley, wheat, maize and oats ■■ 350,000 tonnes of grain for human consumption and 600,000 tonnes for animals.

BACKGROUND The New Zealand pasture seed industry began with the importation of English ryegrass for improved pasture grasses during the 1800s. Perennial ryegrass adapted well and provided better nutritional value for livestock than the native grasses. Improved pastures soon required seed

multiplication, which was the basis of the New Zealand seed industry. Development of local eco-types followed, laying the foundation for a modern and successful plant breeding sector. Grain production and trade dates back to the late 1880s and early 1900s when

large areas of wheat were grown for the fledgling flour milling and baking industry. The New Zealand Grain & Seed Association was formed in 1919 for the primary purpose initially of drawing up terms of trade between members and to bring some order into the trade.

In recent years substantial new business has been developed in contract seed production for other countries. Opposite production seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres enable plant breeders to accelerate seed production and commercial companies to make up seasonal shortfalls from their

own production. Pasture seed and vegetable seed are currently the main export items. Approximately 25,000 tonnes of seed are exported annually. Major markets are the US, Australia, Europe, Japan, China and South America.

EXPORTS Many New Zealand-bred cultivars, especially ryegrass, tall fescue and clover species, are commercially adopted in other countries. Pasture seed has traditionally been the mainstay of New Zealand seed exports, but there is an increasing trend towards vegetable seed production.

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The minister’s applause The seed industry around the wider Canterbury region is one of the unsung stars of the primary sector, according to the Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy. “Not many people know New Zealand produces 50 per cent of the world’s radish seeds and 30 per cent of the world’s carrot seeds.” Mr Guy said last year $228 million was earned from the export of seeds

and grain and this was continuing to grow. “Over the last 14 years the industry has had strong growth of around 7 per cent a year. “It’s not just for export either, but as an important input for the wider primary sector with crops like barley, wheat, maize, oats, and pasture seeds.” Mr Guy also pointed out the seed and arable industry offered “good

evidence” that irrigation “doesn’t just mean more dairy”. “It also has a strong outlook as the growth of Asia is going to mean more demand for food. “Some forecasts predict global food demand may increase by 40-45 per cent in just the next 10 years.”

The seed and arable industry offers good evidence that irrigation doesn’t just mean more dairy

Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy applauds the arable industry.


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In its quarterly Commodity Market Outlook, the World Bank said El Nino is expected to reach maximum strength between December and February, potentially lasting throughout early summer of 2016 But while recent weather forecasts suggest the current episode could be one of the strongest on record, its impact on commodity prices is likely to be local rather than global.

The stark warning is contained among dozens of pages of written evidence submitted by growers and livestock producers to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee. The committee has published the evidence ahead of its first hearing into the agricultural downturn. “The committee wishes to inquire into the impact of these (lower prices) and other factors on farm gate prices, and measures that could be taken to improve prospects for the agriculture industry.”


AUST: LAMB EXPORT VALUES INCREASE Australian lamb export values for August increased 8 per cent on yearago levels, totalling $A139.6 million. It brings the year-to-August total to $1.2 billion, up 7 per cent year-onyear and 45 per cent higher than the five-year average for the period. The average unit value for Australian lamb exports was $7.03/kg for the eight month period, up 7 per cent year-on-year. Australia’s major lamb export markets registered varying trends for year-to-August values, compared to the same time last year.

The appearance of imported American onions on a wholesale trading floor has prompted the national industry body to repeat its calls for consumers to “buy Australian”. The Queensland fresh onion season is in full swing and Onions Australia chairperson Kees Versteeg, himself a Queenslander, said the produce is available on supermarket and greengrocer shelves, as well as in the wholesale markets.








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USA: INCREASE IN CATTLE ON FEEDLOTS The October USDA Cattle on Feed report said there were 2.3 per cent more cattle on feed on October 1 than a year ago. The report said September placements were down 4.1 per cent and marketings were down 2.4 per cent compared to September 2014. There is a lot of meat in cold storage right now. According to USDA’s monthly Cold Storage report, there were 496 million pounds of beef in cold storage at the end of September. This is up 5.5 per cent from the month before.

USA: CANCER AND MEAT REPORT ALREADY AFFECTING MARKET Tyson Foods Inc, the largest US meat producer, dropped the most in more than two months after JPMorgan Chase & Co. downgraded its rating on the stock and the World Health Organisation said eating processed meat is a cancer hazard. Arkansasbased Tyson fell 4.9 per cent to $45.10 in New York, the biggest decline since Aug 3. The shares had gained 18 per cent this year amid record beef prices. With more “negative data” emerging for US protein exports, the “near-term upside may be more limited.


AUST: EXPORTERS TAKE ACTION Australian livestock exporters have taken action after Australian sheep were identified in several local markets in Oman in the lead-up to Eid al Adha. Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Alison Penfold said exporter representatives are engaging the Omani traders and the public to bring as many sheep back into approved supply chains as they can. Under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) requirements, Australian livestock must not be sold outside of approved supply chains.

Over-capacity in agricultural processing has slowed the industry’s development, hurting investments, R&D, innovation and earnings, according to an industry leader. Robert Aspell, president of Cargill China, said massive investments have been made in recent times, mostly by Chinese companies, in the foodprocessing segment. The 150-yearold Minneapolis-based Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services.






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2 14





New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s marketing executive, Malcolm Ching reports that despite a slightly easier New Zealand dollar, wool prices continued to decline. The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies came down 0.85 per cent. Of the 8290 bales on offer, 70 per cent sold. Mr Ching advises that the tightening of the Chinese economy is restricting new business with exporters covering for old orders only, with quota issues restricting concluding new contracts.

New Zealand’s trade deficit widened unexpectedly last month as dairy exports declined and imports remained stronger than anticipated. Statistics New Zealand said the trade deficit widened to $1.22 billion in September, from $1.08 billion in August, larger than the $825 million deficit forecast by economists. That compares with a $1.36 billion deficit in September last year. The country’s exports rose two per cent to $3.69 billion in September, lagging behind the $3.9 billion expected by economists.



North Island farmer William Oliver has announced he’s standing for the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative board saying he is committed to making the most of the opportunity from the recently approved Shanghai Maling partnership. Silver Fern Farms is holding an election this month with shareholders able to vote for one available director position on the co-operative board. The election follows the recently announced partnership where Shanghai Maling will invest $261

Imports of palm kernel (PKE) - which Fonterra is keen for farmers to cut back on - rose slightly in September compared with the same month in 2014. PKE imports came to 213,488 tonnes in September, up 0.8 per cent from 211,709 tonnes in September 2014, according to data from Statistics New Zealand. Fonterra said last month that it wanted to “future proof ” the cooperative’s position as a world-leading and trusted producer of pasture-based

million in cash for a 50 per cent stake in the Silver Fern Farms business. The deal has been strongly endorsed by Silver Fern Farms shareholders.

Shipments of meat and edible offal rose 33 per cent to $438 million from the year earlier, led by frozen beef, which gained 69 per cent due to higher prices, helping the 2014/15 beef export season reach a record $3.2 billion, the agency said.

milk products. The co-op put forward a recommended maximum of 3kg/per day/per cow was a guideline.

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NEED FOR EFFICIENT IRRIGATION IrrigationNZ says irrigating farmers need to plan now for how they will use their seasonal irrigation volumes as a severe El Nino could mean many farmers will run short of water half way through this season. IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis was responding to NIWA’s prediction that the current El Nino pattern is on track to be “the second most intense

since 1950, with soils around the country drying out fast and irrigation in full swing as temperatures rise. Guidelines released yesterday by Government urged farmers to use irrigation water efficiently and plan for water restrictions as they prepared for El Nino. Mr Curtis says the focus for irrigators needs to be on spreading

water allocations further this season. “Timing is everything in a marginal season. “Irrigating farmers need to start the season well and maintain consistent performance. “Inefficient irrigation now will have a huge impact on whether your irrigation volume will see you through to March.”

CONSTRUCTION WORK STARTS ON BIOCONTAINMENT LABORATORY Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the start of construction work on the new National Biocontainment Laboratory in Upper Hutt today. “This is an $87 million investment which will play a major role in

protecting both our economy and environment. “The new laboratory will be high security and state of the art. It will continue the critical work of responding to disease outbreaks, protecting public health and

providing international trade assurances about New Zealand’s animal disease status. “Primary sector exports make up around three quarters of our merchandise exports, which is why biosecurity is my number one priority.”

ASB FORECAST $5 PAY-OUT Dairy auction prices have spiked more than 50 per cent since August, 2015. Yet, the October 20, 2015 auction price dip signals a return to gradual price rises, according to ASB’s latest Farmshed Economics report. ASB rural economist Nathan Penny says ASB anticipated a change of pace in

price gains over the remainder of the season and retains its 2015/16 milk price forecast of $5/kg. “We anticipated a change of pace in price gains, and for the remainder of this season, so we are sticking with our 2015/2016 milk price forecast of $5/kg,” Mr Penny says. The Silver

Fern Farm and Shanghai Maling deal has recently overshadowed moves in the meat market. “Implications of the Silver Fern Farm and Shanghai Maling deal will play out over time, but for now beef prices are very healthy, while lamb prices sit around average,” he said.

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‘Intense’ El Nino event requires From all accounts, we are entering another season like last year. For irrigating farmers that means planning now for how you will use your seasonal irrigation volumes as a severe El Nino could mean many farmers run short of water halfway through this season. Last month Niwa predicted that the current El Nino pattern is on track to be “the second most intense since 1950”. We’re seeing evidence of this already as soils around the country dry out fast and irrigators in full swing as temperatures rise. Guidelines released recently by Government will help farmers as they prepare for El Nino (http://www.mpi.govt. nz/protection-and-response/ responding-to-threats/adverseevents/classifying-adverseevents-/preparing-for-el-nino/) Our advice to irrigators is use your irrigation water efficiently and plan for water restrictions. It’s important to put in place plans for how you will spread your water allocations further this season.

Andrew Curtis


Timing is everything in a marginal season. Irrigating farmers need to start the season well and maintain consistent performance. Inefficient irrigation now will have a huge impact on whether your irrigation volume will see you through to March. Irrigation scheduling is central to this, particularly now irrigators are limited in the water they have through seasonal volumes. With water meters in place, irrigating farmers should be keeping a close eye on what they are using. Off the back of another dry winter there’s no room for wastage or poor performance as every drop will be needed this summer. continued next page



irrigators to plan now in pivot corners, for example, if water restrictions start to bite. That way you can continue to operate more efficient irrigators such as pivots and linear moves for longer. The key to surviving this summer will be all about preparation and support is available for irrigating farmers to arm themselves before El Nino worsens. Our website (www. irrigationnz.co.nz) includes checklists and guidelines covering early-season maintenance and we offer training workshops and resource books for irrigators who need advice. This month, we’re also rolling out a SMART Irrigation awareness campaign to remind farmers of the pathways to become SMART Irrigators. With an intense El Nino breathing down our neck and a depressed dairy price, it’s more relevant than ever to be talking about how we can save money, time and energy by moving towards more efficient and effective irrigation practice.

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From P18 We recommend sitting down and planning your water budgets so you know exactly where you are at. Alongside appropriate irrigation scheduling, checking irrigation equipment is well maintained and performing to specification will minimise down-time, leakage or delivery problems. Ensuring irrigators are working as they should guarantees you’re getting the best from the water you apply. Some simple early-season calibration checks can save a lot of water over the season. Some systems may be 20 to 30 per cent out. As the season goes on, regular maintenance will be essential. Checking pressure and sprinklers is recommended. Down the track when we get squeezed, water re-nozzling might help stretch volumes out for longer. Alternatively, if you operate a number of irrigation systems, plan ahead now to shut off the less efficient ones; long laterals

2 20




Challenges to the plan “It’s not fair!” You considered carefully, and planned, and possibly involved one of your children in the discussion. But not the other(s) because: a) There wasn’t enough cash to go around b) The farming child needed to be involved so they could carry on running the farm but the other(s) didn’t – they don’t live or work on the farm and have their own lives and incomes or c) There might have been some disagreements. And besides, what you do with your assets in your will is up to you, right? Unfortunately that’s not right. The provisions of the Family Protection Act 1955 mean that, if you have a spouse/ partner and/or children and/or grandchildren, you don’t have complete freedom to do as you please in your will. If your spouse/ partner/ child/ grandchild believes

Alana Crampton


that you didn’t make adequate provision for them in your will, they can bring a claim against your estate, even if they’re an adult, and financially independent. What is ‘adequate’? That’s a tough call, but factors that a court would consider include: ■■ The size of your estate (including any debt owed to you eg by a trust, especially where that debt is forgiven in your will) ■■ Your duty to provide for others (including your partner, other children) ■■ What provision you made for that person in your will, and also whilst you were alive (or provision for their

parent, in the case of a grandchild) ■■ That person’s age, state of health, ability to earn a living, and financial position ■■ Your opinions and wishes ■■ The relationship between you and that person. This does not mean that you have to treat all your children equally. But any differential in provision needs to be thought through and discussed with your lawyer. The usual starting point is looking after your spouse/ partner if they survive you. Then, make provision for your children. Current case law indicates that a grown-up, financially independent child in good health could expect up to 10 to 15 per cent of their parent’s estate. Where there are health or other challenges faced by that child, ‘adequate’ provision may well be a larger percentage of your estate. If you sold the family farm to

one of your children (or their trust), with say, $5 million debt back to you, you may plan to forgive that debt in your will. But the debt would be an asset in your estate and be included in the calculations of estate

value. If you’ve been able to accumulate other assets eg your home, and perhaps funds in the bank, that all adds to your estate value. If a disgruntled child felt they had been treated unfairly



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It may be a good relationship when they are young, but how do you keep your children happy?

and lodged a claim for more, how would your estate be able to fund any increased provision to that child? Would some of the debt owed by the farming child have to be ‘clawed back’ to put

enough cash into your estate? Would the farming child be able to borrow enough from a bank to be able to repay funds to your estate? How much damage will have been done to the family


relationships by the provisions of your will, which left one or more of your children feeling you didn’t treat them fairly? Family weddings in the future might be quite sparsely attended! A good succession plan will include discussing with your children the plans you are making and why, and may include having all of your children enter into a Deed of Family Arrangement – effectively a contract between them and you acknowledging the way in which you are passing on your assets, and getting their agreement in writing that they will not challenge your estate if the succession plan is implemented (whether by your will or during your lifetime or a combination). The Deed of Arrangement could also include provisions, if appropriate, that if the assetrich child subsequently sold that asset, that child would share some of the sale proceeds with their siblings.

But what if your relationship with one child is tricky? If their involvement in your succession planning discussions will only lead to arguments? If, whatever you do for them, they always seem to want more, and don’t understand that the farm can’t support much more bank borrowing? In that case your succession planning should include options to transfer assets during your lifetime, so that they don’t form part of your estate. Then the provision that you make for that child in your will should be a good percentage of your assets at the date of your death. Erring on the side of caution will help ensure it is not worth that child going to the effort and expense of making a claim as any court would be unlikely to increase the provision to them. This will need careful discussion with your professional advisors as you will need to balance the cost

of your likely needs during your lifetime against the level of assets you are comfortable with giving away. It’s not an exact science, and you’ll need to ensure important aspects such as rest home costs are considered (if you give away assets in your lifetime, the value may still be included in the calculation of eligibility for rest home subsidy – you don’t want to find that the government won’t contribute to the cost of your care because you gave significant assets away, but then you’ve had a falling-out with the child you gave them to, and they’re not willing to provide funding for you). Families can be a joy, but can also involve complex relationships and expectations that we can’t always control as much as we might like. Good succession planning helps leave the legacies you wish both in regard to your assets, and in regard to the relationships of the family members that survive you.

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2 22




T-L Irrigation Systems now Carrfields Irrigation T-L Irrigation has changed its name to Carrfields Irrigation – a business incorporating all the experience of Carr Group and with the added expertise of the former Busch Irrigation. Coupled with their exclusive dealership of popular T-L Irrigation and well known reputable Mid Canterbury Busch Irrigation servicing company, Carrfields Irrigation is now able to offer a complete service from sales to maintenance. General manager Matt Keen says irrigation was the obvious next step for the Carr Group as they are already selling everything from stock feed, agricultural machinery, grain and seed and robotic milking equipment to farmers. The company has opened offices in Cromwell and Ashburton and staff have grown from zero last August to 22. “We’ve now got our first pivots up and running without any major issues.”

Two areas the company intends to focus on are commissioning support and customer service as well as preventative measures to ensure irrigator safety. “Servicing and commissioning are big drivers for us. We want to make sure our machinery is being commissioned correctly and that it works properly with the necessary back up support,” says Matt. One way Carrfields Irrigation intends to achieve this is by appointing design

and sales staff to be involved in the project and take responsibility for the final outcome on-farm. The company is also supportive of IrrigationNZ’s moves to lift industry standards and is looking at putting staff through certification and qualification processes. “We are looking at the company becoming certified and will want to see our people become accredited too.” Employing technology to prevent wind-related damage to irrigator infrastructure

is also a priority. Matt says the company has taken onboard lessons learnt from the September 2013 windstorm and wants to ensure its clients are protected in the future. To this end, Carrfields Irrigation is partnering with the University of Canterbury and the Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) to trial the HydroFix Irrigator Stability System. Open field trials will be held this summer and Matt says the company is looking for farmers willing to test the system in their paddocks.

The HydroFix consists of a series of inflatable water tanks connected to pulley and counterweight systems along the length of the irrigator. As soon as windy weather is forecast, farmers can turn on a tap to fill the tanks with water and lower it to the ground to secure the irrigator at the centre of each span. When the wind event is over, the water can be released. The HydroFix system will fit any size of lateral and centre pivot irrigator and Matt encourages farmers willing to test this tie-down approach to get in touch. For a new entrant to the irrigation industry, Carrfields Irrigation has made big strides within a year, but Matt says they still have a lot to learn. “We’re getting a lot of enquiries which is positive for us from the wider Carrfields Group network, but we’re in the growth phase as it’s still early days. We don’t want to get too big so won’t grow just for the sake of it.”



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The birds are back Mary Ralston


Many migratory river birds are back in the rivers and at the coast. Black-billed gulls, wrybill, black-fronted terns, banded dotterell, South Island pied oyster catcher – these wonderful native birds arrive in their thousands to live in our district for the summer. It’s a very special thing to offer a home to one of the world’s rarest gulls, but that’s what happens on the Ashburton River. The blackbilled gull is not only rare, but endangered. Its status is “nationally critical”, just one step up from extinction, the same as the kiwi. The blackbilled gull is very different to the much bigger blackbacked gull, which is not at all endangered.

Black-billed gulls feeding at the river’s edge.

The black-billed gulls search for food at the Ashburton rivermouth and in the Lake Hood area. Tiny fish, whitebait and insect larvae are food for these birds, allowing them to put on weight ready

for egg-laying and raising of chicks. Thousands have begun to congregate on the shingle of the riverbed where they made their colony last year. Clear areas of shingle are needed for nesting and this

is hard to find in many of the rivers these days. Lupins, broom and other weeds clog up the beds of our braided rivers. The weeds also provide cover and protection for the predators of the birds, such as

cats and ferrets. As individuals we can’t do much to the mass of lupins in the river, but we can help the birds by staying away from colonies, not driving on the riverbeds and keeping our dogs at home if we go to the river. Simple actions such as these can be of great benefit to the birds which are under a lot of pressure. Our local council, Environment Canterbury and Forest and Bird monitor the birds and trap predators. We need to do all we can to help our precious gulls have a successful breeding season.

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2 24



How far Mid Canterbury has come

“ Chris Murdoch


It never ceases to amaze me how far Mid Canterbury has come in the past four decades or so. I remember only too well when I left school (yes I did go to school!) back in the early 1970’s and I was working on the family rock heap in Mayfield, thinking we were playing hell with a big stick growing wheat, barley, peas and running 1800 ewes amongst the stones. A few of us got friendly with a few Irish boys who immigrated to New Zealand at the time. They’ll know who they are! We had some great times but one of them brought a farm in the Seafield district on what was dry land at the time. Everyone who lived in the

The old family “rock heap” in Mayfield now would be significantly worth more.

foothills area where we came from gave them hell because it never rained and especially through the mid 1980’s during the drought years Seafield

grew nothing. However, how things changed with the beginning of spray irrigation in these districts in the late 1980’s

onwards. In those early days very little specialist seed crops were grown and knowledge of how to grow them was almost

Now we have a booming industry built on small seeds, vegetables and specialist crops.

non-existent. Now we have a booming industry built on small seeds, vegetables and specialist crops. With the introduction of water the areas east of the main road turned into the “bread basket” of Canterbury and has added huge value to Mid Canterbury and New Zealand’s economy. With over $200 million gained in small seed exports from the industry it’s fair to say the family rock heap in Mayfield is worth a little more now! And the Irish boys have every right to look at the foothills area and have the last laugh.



Westland’s outlook positive Westland Milk Products is in a sound financial position and well positioned to return higher payouts to shareholders in the medium to long term, the co-operative’s Chief Executive Rod Quin says. In spite of a difficult season Westland, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy cooperative, reports it has retained 10 cents from its payout to shareholders of $4.95 per kilogram of milksolids (KGms), which equates to a profit of $7 million before tax. Quin says that in spite of the state of the global dairy market and the consequent reduction in revenue, the company has assets of more than $538 million and is in a sound position. He says Westland’s investment in added-value plant and technology in the past few years is already reducing Westland’s reliance on the highly volatile bulk commodities market. “Income from our nutritional products is already adding significantly to shareholder returns, with

Westland Milk Products in sound position.

nearly 20 cents of the 201415 payout from this source,” Quin says. “We expect an increasing, and more profitable, component of Westland’s revenue to come from added-value products as our capital investment in new

We are now providing our clients a

new service Our Blower Truck and Trailer for stock feed, grain & fertiliser is now on the road. Don’t have an auger then this service is for you.

plant comes on-line.” Quin says that the 2014–15 season was a blunt reminder that dairy commodity cycles are becoming shorter, with even more extreme price volatility. “The global effects felt

by the removal of milk production quotas throughout the EU, ongoing milk growth in the USA, continued sanctions against Russia, and softer demand from China, have been major factors defining the season. These

have resulted in significant declines in dairy commodity prices, and reinforced the need for Westland Milk Products to continue its strategy to deliver higher returns through its focus on growing nutritional products, foodservice and retail brands. “With revenue of NZ$639 million and volume of 123,084 tonnes, Westland continues to be a major regional economic success, delivering an industry-competitive payout of $4.95 per KGms before retentions. “We have built on the strong historical platforms of quality commodity production with increased value-added capacity, culminating this year in the construction of the new infant nutrition plant (Dryer 7) in Hokitika, and the UHT facility under construction in Rolleston. “The company’s capital investment has been complemented with continued investment in its skills base to ensure it has capable and welltrained staff to deliver these new products and the highest return to shareholders.”


2 26


Gear failure – generally there’s a My hunting buddy, Steve (not his real name), had a nice MSR liquid-fuel camping stove. I think it cost about $350. MSR stands for Mountain Safety Research – smart gear from the US. I had a pair of Zamberlan size 10 1/2 Italian walking boots worth $600 – the ones with ridged soles that will take a crampon if needed. The Italians still have the zen when it comes to walking boots. Both boots and stove had a very happy and useful life up until one frosty night when we found ourselves camping on DOC land beside a stream at the top of Redcliffs, south side of the Rakaia. The MSR was being used to cook Steve’s noodles, to which he had been adding a succession of ingredients that he kept producing from his pack. It was quite a heavy pack. I had sat chewing on my pre-made sausage sandwich, watching with interest and some envy. In my experience, there are three kinds of gear failure – the annoying kind, the life-threatening kind and the

Greg Martin


life-saving kind. The annoying kind usually happens because it was your fault, like forgetting to check the knot to your zeddie when salmon fishing. A bump, a flash of silver and a bust off. Fisher failure. The life-threatening kind reminds you that you are not the master of this world and the life-saving kind reminds you that maybe there is a master who wants you to stick around just a little longer. Whatever kind, gear failure happens to even the best fishers and hunters to the extent that it is just part of being out there doing it. You plan against it. You invest against it. But it happens, and on the whole it makes for a good laugh and a memorably unplanned

embarrassment. On that evening up Redcliffs, at some point during the noodle cooking, Steve had suddenly noticed with alarm that the fuel (which I think was lighter fluid) was spurting out of the top of the MSR alloy bottle into the tussock. “F***ing hell!” He switched everything off and put the noodles aside. There was a fine crack in the plastic attachment to the bottle.

This crack was letting fuel escape when under pressure. Steve was disappointed. Expensive gear shouldn’t fail like that and it had hardly been used. In between bouts of further examination and pondering, Steve ate his noodles as they were. He tinkered about. It wasn’t fixed, but he thought it would be okay. It needed to work. That was how he was going to eat.

When coffee time came he carefully re-pressurised the fuel bottle and lit the stove again. Heat roared. Water was put on to boil. I mentally shifted back a little. I cannot remember how warm the water had become before it happened. Not very I don’t think. There was a “whoosh”, we were on our feet and I was stamping. It was at that moment that my $600 size 10 1/2 Zamberlans came into

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funny side From left to right: A cook-up of noodles. A well-equipped hut means plenty of back-up gear. Unfortunately there are not many of these kinds of huts left. Not so much gear failure, as fisherman blooper. The right gear gets you to the top and down again.

play as they stomped Steve’s $350 MRS stove into the earth. I was trying to put out the surrounding flames. It didn’t help. The fire had a mind of its own and that mind was angry. All water resources at hand were deployed. That also didn’t help. It was like trying to kill a snake with a piece of cooked spaghetti. I smashed my way to the stream and we formed a twoman human chain conveying

pots and mugs of water hurriedly from the stream to flaming tussock in front of the tents. Newspaper headlines started running through my mind. This was it, I thought. An embarrassment of Mid Canterbury proportions. But after the third or fourth cycle, Steve shouted that it was all out. I walked back up to camp, hot and breathing heavy.

“F***ing hell.” Steve bent down and picked up his MSR, black and bent. “Sorry about that,” I said standing beside him looking at what was left. Steve chuckled. He wasn’t angry. “My fault for trying to get the friggin’ thing to work. So much for coffee hey?” We decided that it was probably a good time to get some sleep.

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TIPS ■■ Stuff generally deteriorates in storage, so check it before heading out. ■■ Avoid the life-threatening kinds of gear failure: disintegrating boots and rifles with a worn trigger. ■■ Expensive gear is usually expensive for a reason, but even good gear needs care and attention. ■■ Check-lists and “SOPs” are a great way to teach kids about being ready for gear failure. ■■ Use gear for the manufacturer’s intended purpose. Quad bikes were not meant to be submersibles.


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Cross Slot helps conserve soil moisture and lessen wind erosion Conserving soil moisture and lessening the effects of wind erosion have never been more important than in an El Nino climate event according to Tim Porter Cross Slot No Tillage. Owner Tim believes direct drilling on his farm for over a decade with his Cross Slot drill has had a tremendous wind and moisture conservation effect on his land and that has led to high yields and soil biological fertility. The drill is the only direct drill to place fertiliser and seed side by side in one pass – saving labour time and also protecting your most valuable asset – soil. Tim has already found this year that wind erosion has been lessened significantly by having sprayed off plant material covering and protecting ground and emerging plants. In the case of fodderbeet, which is prone to wind buffeting and damage in

Cross slot drilled peas consistently achieve higher yields.

young plants, leaving the existing vegetation to grow a moderate amount of bulk before spraying out with glyphosphate and then cross slotting into standard residue can mitigate the risk. Moisture savings will be critical this year for all

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It all equates to higher yields in a dry year, he says. But even when it’s a normal season Cross Slot drilled crops have performed exceptionally well across the board, particularly processed peas, he says. “Results from peas have

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consistently been in the top 25 per cent for late sown peas showing benefits of soil structure preservation and moisture retention.” Kale has also shown very good yield responses to precision placed fertiliser with stronger, healthier more vigorous seedlings. Reduced ground disturbance also leads to less weed pressure in crops such as borage, saving you costly chemicals. No till farming mimics the natural conditions under which most soils were formed, more closely than any other method of farming in that the soil is left undisturbed except to place seeds in a position to germinate. At this time of year Tim drills linseed, borage, kale, and fodderbeet into silage grass paddocks and shortly will be drilling into pea stubbles. Give him a call on 027 208 3401. He’s only too happy to come and have a chat!

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Rethink, redesign and recreate One of my favourite parts of being back in schools working with children and teachers is brainstorming how we might rethink and redesign the way we live and the products and materials we use, so we have a more resource-efficient and cleaner planet to enjoy. Have a read of the following ... Consider how much energy a herd of dairy cows could generate from their daily treks into the milking shed? Could this be free energy in the future? A typical dance club, playing on average music three times a week, consumes a whopping 150 times more energy than the average household consisting of four people do in a year. In an attempt to off-set this huge outlay on energy, some environmentally conscious clubs have made strides towards providing green services. These include waterless urinals, recycled water in toilets and organic beverages behind the bar. However, could they go one step further and harvest

Sheryl Stivens


the energy produced by their patrons to fuel the party?

Piezoelectric power The idea relies on the principle of piezoelectric energy, which is derived from mechanical movements – such as walking, sprinting or dancing. When pressure is applied, both a negative and positive charge is produced (on the expanded and compressed sides, respectively). After the pressure is taken away, an electrical current is allowed to flow across the surface. This piezoelectric energy can be harvested and used to power small-scale devices, such as LED bulbs.

The piezoelectric dance floor In 2007, a pair of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pioneered a project called Crowd Farming which proposed putting piezoelectric flooring in urban spaces.

The principle would work exactly the same as the shoe mentioned above – but instead would cover the entire surface area of the floor, meaning that the collective energy produced by everyone walking over it could be gleaned. Though the idea didn’t fully take off, it’s an interesting

Masta-Gardener COMPOST

proposition. However, certain dance clubs around the world have jumped on the idea and tried to implement it into their dance floors. One such location is Surya in London, which opened back in 2008 and expected to generate up to 60 per cent of its total

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Far left – Farmers are increasingly recycling their containers. Left – A piezoelectric dance floor.

energy from dancing. Though the idea hasn’t exactly set the world alight in the ensuing seven years, it’s an interesting approach to the ever-increasing problem of replacing fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy. See more at: http:// www.pollutionsolutions-

online.com/news/greenenergy/42/breaking_news/ can_dance_floors_power_the_ orld/35819/#sthash.8Z9njjKa. dpuf

Recycling of farm plastic chemical containers on the rise

Nine successive years of growth for Agrecovery Rural Recycling show that farmers and growers across the country are continuing to increase their sustainable recycling practices. This year Agrecovery exceeded one million kilograms of container plastic recycled since the initial 2007 launch

year to build up your soils by applying compost to your pastures, paddocks or gardens. Compost will improve your water retention over summer and help your plants grow strong root systems along with resilience to pests and diseases. Make your own compost for the home garden by layering your lawn clippings with your foodwaste, weeds and prunings in a container or a well covered bin. Make sure it is moist enough for the micro organisms to do their job of breaking down the materials into rich loam and keep the light out and the moisture in with a good cover of carpet, or old woollen clothing and cardboard.

and now have over 10,000 farmer and grower members. The new large plastic drum service is proving very popular with farmers and Agrecovery is now supported by 63 participating brand owners who voluntarily pay a levy on their product sales into the New Zealand market. This enables farmers and growers to access nationwide recycling services for free. The programme will continue to raise awareness of the proven negative environmental and health impacts associated with burning or burying plastic packaging and chemicals onfarm. According to Agrecovery, using the 240 tonnes of recycled plastic collected this financial year versus using new plastic saves energy equivalent to 452,000 litres of petrol. ATS in Ashburton host our local Agrecovery drop off site – www.agrecovery.co.nz


For help with home composting, worm farming or bokashi fermented foodwaste come along to the monthly compost demo. Time: 11.30 to 12.30 at the Eco Education Centre – alongside the Envirowaste Recycle Shed All are welcome. Phone 0800 627-824 or email sherylstivens@gmail.com

Build up your soils with compost Now is the perfect time of


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Profile for Ashburton Guardian

Ashburton guardian farming, tuesday, november 3, 2015  

Ashburton Guardian Farming, Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ashburton guardian farming, tuesday, november 3, 2015  

Ashburton Guardian Farming, Tuesday, November 3, 2015