Page 1

An Ashburton Guardian Advertising Feature

January 2012


farming interesting • informative • essential

Farming work keeps mayor grounded

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Page 10


What’s in store for 2012? Ken Ring


he coming year is a flip-flop of wet and dry periods, and from May onwards an alternation of warmer and cooler months. The lack of precipitation has the effect of keeping temperature averages intact. Overall the South Island can expect average temperatures for 2012, and overall for the year, Ashburton can expect average rain, average temperatures and average sunshine hours. Season:

Summer The South Island may be in for a wetter coming summer which may end up about a third wetter than average and with average temperatures. Autumn A drier than average season is expected and with average temperatures Winter Winter for the South Island should be wetter than average, and again late for the whole country. Sunshine may be average for winter and with average temperatures despite some very cold spells, but the year will probably be seen in hindsight as a step away from the record-colder winters. Spring Sunshine for the season is above average due to a sunnier October and November. Early summer 2012/13 may be warmer than average. Month: January Wetter than average across the South Island but average rain for Ashburton, also average temperatures and average sunshine despite regular light showers. January may not go longer than four or five days without rain. In the third week there is chance of flooding in Canterbury and from the West Coast to Otago. Lakeside flooding is expected In Queenstown. Alpine rainfall affects Central Otago with high rivers bringing floods to Alexandra, with possible evacuation of tourist camps. Although wet around 26th, from 21st-31st may be the driest period. February February may be dry for the whole country. Although drier than average across the South Island, there may be average rain for Ashburton, average sunshine and average temperatures. Only about four rain days are likely in the district from the 7th onwards. Ashburton can expect a heavy rain day 20th to 22nd and/or at the end of the month there may be heavy enough rain to bring relief to hardened ground. Temperatures may reach 30°C around the beginning and middle of February.

March The start of autumn may be wetter than average across South Island as well as for Ashburton, with average sunshine and average temperatures. March rain should alleviate threat of a South Island drought. The driest interval may be from 6th to 10th. March may still be warm enough to take holidays, with most of the first half of the month dry. The end of March brings heavy rain, which should be conserved because of a dry trend over the next two months. The rest of autumn may be sunny, warmer and drier than average. April April should be drier than average across the South Island and also for Ashburton. Average sunshine is expected for the region as well as average temperatures. April’s rain may be mostly finished after the first week. Gales may affect the region at the end of April. May May should be drier than average across the South Island as well as for Ashburton. There may also be above average temperatures and above average sunshine amounts. First frosts may be in the first week of May and first sightings of snow may be in the last week of May. June June should be wetter than average across South Island whereas only average precipitation is expected for Ashburton, also average sunshine and below average temperatures. Snow in Canterbury may be mainly throughout June and July, with significant snow in the second half of June. There may be one heavy night of precipitation around 19th to 21st , which drags the month’s temperature below average. July July may be wetter than average across South Island with below average rain also for Ashburton, plus average sunshine and above average temperatures. The first half of July brings regular light precipitation, some of which will be snow, because of a cold polar outbreak. However the snow and freezing conditions will be mainly to the far south of country. The second half of July should be dry. August August may be wetter than average across the South Island as well as for Ashburton, also average sunshine for the region and below average temperatures. The whole country suffers a stormy start to August, and South Canterbury can expect snow during the first half of the month. But the second half of August and all of September are almost bone dry, which is why overall August may be a cooler than normal month but September a slightly warmer one.

Summary, outlook period Approx 9 to 11

Number of rain days: Precipitation potential times:

January 1st-3rd, 9th, 15th-20th, 26th

Mostly dry

January 4th-7th, 21st-24th, 27th-31st

Wettest periods:

January 1st-3rd, 26th

Warmest maximum temperatures:

January 9th, 24th-25th January 3rd

Coolest maximum temperatures: Warmest minimums:

January 20th

Coldest minimums:

January 2nd, 6th, 27th-28th

Sunniest days:

January 5th-9th, 21st-25th

Best days for outdoor recreation:

January 21st-25th January 1st-4th, 10th-11th, 19th-20th

Cloudiest: Estimated precipation for Ashburton:






Estimated sunshine amount for Ashburton:

September Expect average precipitation across the South Island, but below average rain for Ashburton, also average sunshine and above average temperatures. Snowfalls and cold temperatures should mar the start to spring, and lambing losses can be expected in the first and third weeks. October October should be drier than average across the South Island but expect above average rain for Ashburton accompanied by average sunshine and below average temperatures. Expect more snow for almost the whole of the first half, bringing the month’s temperature below average, but from mid October to the end of the year conditions may be unusually dry. November November may be wetter than average across the South Island but drier than

191 hrs (January average 157hrs)

average rain in Ashburton, with above average sunshine and above average temperatures. In November there may be downpours around 14th-19th, but if not then irrigation will be needed over this drier, warmer and sunnier month. December December may be drier than average across the South Island and also for Ashburton, with average sunshine amounts and above average temperatures. Over the approaching summer season sunshine amounts are likely to be average. Southern hydro lakes: February, April and May could be the driest months of 2012 for Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, but the arrival of good rain in June should restore the lakes to adequate levels. There should therefore be no power crisis attributed to drier lakes during 2012.

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Page 11

Irrigation matters Tony Davoren, Hydroservices


he irrigation season that almost wasn’t continues. Although one must take care committing such words to paper because seasons have a funny way of catching you out. Couldn’t help but think how our season thus far has anecdotally been like the European one I had relayed to me when there in November. Remember a season when a crop or crops could make it to harvest with no irrigation. Of course you can if you are a dryland farmer – but I am thinking of those who have invested in irrigation to ensure they can take the moisture variable out of play to farm profitably. I think last month I mentioned it had been the first irrigation season since we began monitoring soil moisture for farmers in 1983 that we had not needed to irrigate before November 1 and as it turned out for much of December. Now I can confirm there have been crops that were harvested without any irrigation applied and not just on those deep Templeton or Wakanui or Temuka soils – but on shallow Chertsey and Lismore soils. Why this interesting phenomena that some cannot remember happening in their farming careers. Is it global warming? Is it climate change? Is it because we are in the southern hemisphere and our weather follows the northern hemisphere? Who knows, but I hope it is not the latter because we like to think we are leaders and not followers.

Whatever the reason, I couldn’t but think of comments I heard over and over while in Netherlands and England in November – “wet spring and unable to drill some crops, then bang it just turned dry and never rained again”. They certainly had wonderful harvest weather and a bumper harvest to go with it. We certainly have some “big” crops around, so have we followed? I have taken a quick look at the monthly weather from Telford in Shropshire, one of the areas I visited and heard first-hand of the aforementioned weather pattern. First I took a look at the monthly rainfall for the seasons beginning with spring; i.e. March, April and May in the Northern Hemisphere, and September, October and November for us. Then for summer; i.e. June, July and August in the Northern Hemisphere, and December thus far for us.

This plot of monthly totals suggests not. Elementary statistics would suggest there is no relationship whatsoever.

Of course the number of days it rains is also important – did it just rain and be done or did it come as long duration low intensity rainfall. So I had a look at these as well. So are we followers or leaders? The histograms of monthly rainfall totals might suggest a similar pattern to some of you but not to others. The only similarity is the last month of spring and the first month of summer – both months were wet in the northern and southern hemispheres and there was a decreasing trend. For those who are statistically minded – is there a real meaningful relationship?

I and all of you I am sure would prefer to see a steadily declining trend in our rain days and not have half the month raining!

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Page 12


Monthly musings A positive approach

happening, and likely future trends. To this end this publication serves a worthwhile purpose.

shburton District’s recently published State of the Community Report 2011 contains some very positive messages for the continued growth of the economy of our district.

With the Christchurch earthquakes causing cancellation of the 2011 Census, not all figures are available. We do know however that Ashburton District’s population is now over 30,000.

As always the greatest opportunities outlined are inexorably linked to further expansion and diversification of our rural sector industries.

Of much greater importance is the following: In the three years 2007-10 Ashburton District’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 8.3 per cent while New Zealand’s total GPD has contracted by 1.4 per cent.


However, positive trends cover many facets of dayto-day life. Increased recreational participation, crime statistics well below the national average, much improved retention of students in education to age 17, and steadily increasing residential property values, all point towards a positive future. Analysis of raw statistics on their own is always fraught with danger, but comparison over a period and with other like districts gives a clearer indication of what is really

Don’t let anyone tell me that Ashburton is not “doing its bit” to keep the national economy sound and growing. I’ve found it interesting over the past few days to read again a 250 page document (kindly loaned by friend Jack Ross), entitled Ashburton; A Regional Resources Survey, dated October 1976. The survey was commissioned by the Southern Canterbury Regional Development Council, one of 11 nationwide, forerunner to the Canterbury Regional Council ie ECan. The survey was carried out by the University of Otago Business Development Centre. A weighty document, it analyses current demographic, soil, water, mineral, agriculture, labour and manufacturing resources of the time. Furthermore it assesses tourism, transport, construction, finance and service sectors in the same manner. The survey could just as well be titled Ashburton State of the Community Report 1976.


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Page 13

John Leadley

Other targets relate to: Importation of skilled labour, expansion of Mt Hutt Skifield (established three years) and allied tourism, low cost and pensioner housing expansion via State Advance Loan Finance, establishment of advice bureau to expand farm production (Innovation Park). I’m strongly of the opinion that many of the growth strategies outlined in this 36-year-old document are just as relevant today as they were in 1976. Further reading of detailed recommendations from the survey raises many relevant issues. Highlighted was the need for a recreational water resource in close proximity to Ashburton. The success of Lake Hood is clear for all to see. Readers of this column will be well aware of my support for Government-subsidised low cost first home loans for couples. Debt-free home ownership at retirement should be the aim of every worker, if we are to reduce State dependency. Target 7. Particularly noteworthy was a comment in Target 3 re employment needs. “There may be as many as 400 women in Mid Canterbury who would take up part or full time employment given the opportunity”. Thankfully we’ve moved on! Targets relating to water note the full allocation of the Rangitata resource and opportunities for Rakaia water control via Lake Coleridge, with up to five

hydro generation power stations developing 800 megawatts. Pivotal is acknowledgement of enhancing recreational opportunities and development of a lake in Rakaia Gorge for multipurpose use. Mention is also made of pipe reticulation for irrigation water and the use of gravity for overhead sprinkler application. As someone who sees on-farm pond storage as inefficient land use, compared to gravity fed piping, this was music to my ears! It’s impressive that 35 years later the Zone Implementation Plan for water encompasses many of these ideas. With hindsight a lengthy chapter on The Agricultural Resource is probably less relevant, tending to focus more on existing than potential. With 70,000 hectares already irrigated (only 3000 by sprinkler) in 1976 it’s surprising that potential for dairy farming expansion does not even get a mention. If only the authors could see the district today! Full acknowledgement is made of the potential for increased cereal and pulse crop yields through irrigation and varietal improvement. Much potential was seen in increased areas of solanum, oil seed, rape, peppermint and dry land lucerne for factory production. Sugar beet was seen as the likely new agricultural industry for the future and trial proved it could be


Unfortunately Government trade commitments by way of aid to Fiji together with the small scale of sugar mill needed for New Zealand self sufficiency scuppered the initiative. Maybe just as well considering the volatile nature of world sugar prices. Interestingly, fodder beet (a close cousin) which I grew as a sheep supplement 1974-77 has now become a significant winter supplement for dairy grazing. Chapters on Forestry, Manufacturing, Tourism, Transport, Construction, Finance and Service and Retail distribution are maybe stories for another day. Suffice to say that many of the outcomes sought in 1976 are as relevant today as they were 36 years ago. I believe Ashburton District continues to be a land of opportunities. It is up to us to promote and maximise these chances.

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Page 14


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Page 16


Winchmore update - December John Carson


hristmas has come and gone and 2012 has started with irrigation clocks being charged again, irrigation gates loaded up on their trailer, at last we have started irrigating in earnest. Fortunately we have had a tremendously good pasture growth to date, helped by the fact that sheep numbers were reduced in March. It was really difficult to keep pastures under control and the easiest course of action was to take the opportunity to make a lot more supplements that we can use over winter for the dairy cow winter grazing. The 20 ha cut for hay the other day looks as if it will get rained on before I get it baled, if the weather forecast is to be believed but hopefully we can get it dry enough for baling before then. However, all is not so good on the AgResearch farms further south where after a very good lambing with more lambs than usual they are rapidly running out of grass. A few phone calls between the national farm manager and the five South Island farm managers have resulted in about 600 lambs being trucked up for me to share with the Lincoln farm. Team work at its best. The science lambs here look the best they ever have with ample quality feed in front of them every day. They are due to be drenched, weighed and weaned early next week onto some of the area the carry over cows have been grazing that has a good amount of clover coming through. They are eating a lot of grass at present so weaning should not trouble them too much.

Interestingly the Wiltshire ewes and lambs never panic or get upset about being weaned; there is no noise from them at all even when drafted off at tailing time the lambs will be quietly standing in the grass yard waiting for the ewes to come through. Pasture growth rate for December was slightly above the average at 42.3 kgdm/ha/day. Rainfall is 19mm above the long term average and 10cm soil temperature above the average by almost 1.5°C. This has been great for the feed crops, especially the maize which each year, fascinates me with the speed at which it grows. It had the second dressing of urea between Christmas and New Year, now it is receiving irrigation each week to avoid any stress and it has responded accordingly. The kale crop is much better this year, still room for a few small improvements with the spraying of the weeds pre– drilling but on the whole more of it is looking to be much better than the last few seasons have done. Before Christmas a nicely laminated information sheet arrived with information on being Sun Safe Smart. At the time I remember thinking “what sun, and when”, especially when talking to my son in the UK where his temperature was up to 9° C and we were only 10° C. This has now all changed of late and sunscreen and protection is necessary each day although the tip about staying in the shade from 11am to 4pm only sounds great, I am sure not many of us have managed that one yet, nor the suggested six teaspoonfuls of sun screen lotion to cover the full body of an average size person … really!

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Page 2


Joining forces to stamp out cannabis P

olice and farmers are working together to stop cannabis being illegally grown on their rural properties.

Federated Farmers is asking its members to help police combat the drug by reporting plots and suspicious activity. In Mid Canterbury, riverbeds are popular places for growers to hide small plots among the vegetation. Annual recovery operations by police using helicopters usually net a thousand or so plants. Ashburton police spokesman Mark Prendergast said farmers who came across cannabis plants should take note of the location and report them to police, rather than destroy the plants themselves.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said cannabis growers also favoured back country areas and even planted among crops like maize, which helped hide the plants from the air. “We’re under no illusion that cannabis growers are selfish criminals who have no scruples over whose land they use or damage. Growers will actively use cultivated land because it provides the best environment for a crop no farmer wants.

as well. Mr Wills said some farmers might feel intimidated, because of their isolation, but they should still call police, or 111 in emergencies. Alternatively, information could be provided anonymously through the independent Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111. “They can also pass on information via members of their Federated Farmers provincial executive,” he said. “It’s also a case of ensuring you get to know your neighbours and vice-versa. 

As a rural community we need to make sure cannabis growers aren’t welcome because they are like invasive noxious weeds. With any weed, you really need to stamp them out early.“ He said cannabis cultivation undermined rural security, so the farmer organisation was working with police to help provide thousands of eyes and ears. People can call the independent Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800 555 111 or talk anonymously to Ashburton police.       

“We also suspect criminal elements associated with growers are connected to rustling and the trade in black market meat. This is why there are some practical things farmers can do to actively aid the police.”

“There is a risk that the plot could be boobytrapped.” They should also note the condition of the plants, and if they looked as if they had been regularly tended. He said other common sites for plants were in

plantations and heavily wooded areas, and along hedgelines, where the cannabis plants blended in with other green foliage. Cars parked near plantations sometimes belonged to growers checking their illegal plantings.

Farmers should record and report all suspicious activities to authorities; if possible, vehicle registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles and occupants should be noted. Police obviously need to know the location of suspicious activity


farming interesting • informative • essential

Any feedback is welcome, any comments about our magazine, letters or story suggestions. Please direct any correspondence to: Amanda Niblett, on 307-7927 email: or to: Linda Clarke, on 307-7971 email: or write to PO Box 77, Ashburton.

Advertising: Phone 307-7900 Email: Publication date: January 17, 2012 Next issue: February 14, 2012 An advertising feature for the Ashburton Guardian. Any opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Guardian Farming or the Ashburton Guardian.

Photo Carmen Rooney 200309-CR-065

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Protecting our native species Contributed by Mary Ralston Forest and Bird


were caught, along with 15 cats, 36 stoats, 16 hedgehogs and 3 weasels – over 100 hungry carnivores which would have eaten dozens of native birds, lizards and insects.

New Zealand has many species of beautiful birds and quite a few of these are found along the coast and on the rivers, lakes and forests of our local area.

Since then the number of predators caught has declined, which hopefully means that the trapping has made a dent in predator population, and the birds are a bit safer.

here is a saying that goes something like “you should never underestimate what a group of concerned individuals can do”. That’s exactly what is happening up at Lake Heron.

Some of these precious native species are threatened with extinction because of predators such as stoats, ferrets and cats; loss of habitat; disturbance, and sometimes a combination of factors. The Australasian Crested Grebe is one of the rare and threatened species that is found locally. It was once quite numerous but in our district they are now restricted to the Ashburton Lakes, especially Lakes Heron, Emma and Clearwater. These beautiful lakes are within the Hakatere Conservation Park. Conservation areas that preserve remaining habitat for species often need to be actively managed to reduce threats from predators, control weeds and reduce impacts from other sources such as vehicles or power boats. This management can often be the difference between a species thriving, or slowly declining and becoming extinct.

The number of predators caught has reached a total of 228 which is great progress.

Counting the crested grebes on Lake Emma.

Another positive outcome from the trapping programme is the successful way the group operates – the combination of volunteers from the community, local landowners and a government department has been a good model for getting things done.

The number of crested grebe has declined markedly over the past 100 years and it will need a concerted and sustained effort to ensure its survival.

The group not only has an enjoyable day out in a beautiful setting but they have the satisfaction of contributing to a very worthwhile conservation objective.

Fortunately, a group of concerned locals recognised its plight and began a trapping programme around the edges of Lake Heron to try to improve the chances of the crested grebe being able to lay eggs and successfully raise its chicks. Ross Gordon, of Methven, and Philip

Todhunter, of Lake Heron Station, began the Lake Heron Conservation Group in February 2010. The Department of Conservation supplied traps which have been laid around the edges of the lake to catch introduced mammals such as stoats, ferrets, cats and weasels that predate the nesting adults and young chicks. Initially the traps were checked every two weeks and in the first six months 32 ferrets

Perhaps in 50 years’ time the population of crested grebe will be once again thriving up at the lakes! If you would like to join the Lake Heron Conservation Group, or would like more information, phone Ross Gordon on 302 8840, or email

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Farming work keeps mayor grounded A

shburton District mayor Angus McKay doesn’t shirk the dirty jobs on his Methven farm. He still dags the sheep and drenches the lambs.

Rowe, who has been on the farm for seven years, cultivates and plants the crops, and keeps on top of maintenance. Contractors are used for the big jobs.

It’s been 15 months since he won the mayoralty from incumbent Bede O’Malley in the 2010 local body elections, and life since then has been a busy combination of local politics and farming business.

“I still have a header in the shed, a John Deere bought new in 1983. It was one of the biggest headers in Methven and now it is the smallest. We do as much as we can with it.”

McKay and wife Mary farm 198 hectares off Reynolds Road, near Methven. The property produces wheat, barley, ryegrass and vegetable seed; he quit his breeding ewes a couple of years ago and has around 170 store lambs eating down small paddocks beside the house. He is a stock man at heart and says the farming jobs he still has time for keep him grounded and connected to the people who voted for him.

The brothers have been progressive in different ways. John expanded the family farm and established the specialist hybrid vegetable seed company South Pacific With farming in the family blood, it was Seeds, while Angus went into politics, and perhaps inevitable Angus and younger has been at the forefront of water and brother John would make a living from the irrigation issues. land. They are fourth generation farmers, Angus on the block once farmed by his His first taste of politics was in Young grandparents Gus and Mona, and John Farmers, where he went on to be on the on the Pole Road block farmed by their national executive, then on to the National parents Angus and Joan. Party, where he was involved at branch and national level organisation. He stood unsuccessfully for the Wigram electorate then won a seat on the Canterbury Regional Council in 1997 when long-serving councillor Mayfield farmer Roger Tasker retired. McKay, like other regional councillors, lost their jobs when Government appointed a commissioner to run Environment Canterbury in 2010, and he put his name into the Ashburton mayoral hat later that same year.

The time spent in a suit and on duty as an elected member of the Ashburton District Council means the day-to-day running of the Methven farm falls to manager Murray Rowe. Four out of five weekdays, McKay is away from the farm but the pair meets early each morning to map out what needs to be done. With harvest approaching, there will be crops to monitor closely and contractors to organise.

At eight years old, young Angus was driving tractors for his father and a few years later taking loads of cocksfoot to the mill. Those farming chores kept him from finishing his homework, but planted a seed to succeed.

photo linda clarKe 301211-lc-003

The mayoral mailbox.

He does not tire of politics, despite the games. He says the most important people he meets are those on the street and it is their feedback that keeps him going forward.

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His respite from the public is his farm Three Springs. The view from his dining table takes in some of the best cropping land in the district, while farming neighbours are some of the best and most innovative in the business. The biggest political and farming challenge has been around water for irrigation. McKay was a dryland farmer until 2009, when he bought shares in the Ashburton Lyndhurst and Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation Schemes and could then install spray irrigation to make crops grow to their best. Along with four neighbouring farmers, he also shares in a water turbine which drives a pump that generates enough pressure to power their irrigators. It costs around a third of the price of electricity from the national grid and will pay for itself in 15 years. “I could have farmed the rest of my life dryland, but I believed it was the last chance to pick up irrigation for this farm. I am not thinking of myself but who might come after me.” Like other arable farmers, he says the future is in growing malting barley, feed for the dairy industry and specialist vegetable seed for re-export back to Asia.

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Page 5

Linda Clarke, Ashburton Guardian rural reporter

He uses a broker to negotiate contracts for what is grown, and says he makes a decent living. Despite the financial temptation, he cannot bring himself to convert to dairying. The dirt on Three Springs farm is too good to just to grow grass.

He has no concerns about the growth of dairying in the district, and says dairy farmers are on a cyclical high.

on a high, cropping farming has been on a high, blackcurrants and wineries, and now dairy farmers are on a high.

“I have no worries for the district whatsoever because I have, in my farming career, watched with interest as sheep farming has been

“That is the reason why I am a mixed livestock arable farmer.” His does have a finger in the dairy pie though. He owns a quarter-share of a 580-cow farm at Valetta. The farm is in its fourth season. He said market forces lead diversity and change. “Ashburton has the land, it has the water and it has people with ingenuity and enthusiasm to meet what the customer is willing to pay for. “There will be a change sometime in the future and we will see dairy farms growing something else.” What of their environmental impact? He says collected scientific data and reports showed market gardening and dryland farming had the biggest impact on underground water supplies, while surface waterways were most affected by effluent.

Photo linda clarke 301211-lc-001

Need a

The turbine that uses race water to generate pressure to run spray irrigators for Angus McKay and neighbouring farmers.

He said real environmental offenders were few in Mid Canterbury and peer pressure was bringing them into line.

Photo Johnny houston 311211-jh-082

Ashburton mayor Angus McKay and wife Mary relax at their Methven farm.

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Page 6


Battling clover root weevil M

id Canterbury farmers worried about clover root weevil affecting their valuable pastures should seek advice, says Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers grain and seed spokesman David Clark.

Unfortunately, it is still likely that CRW will spread throughout the South Island, because it is adept at spreading about 20 kilometres every year by making flights during warm summer days. In addition, CRW can also cover longer distances by moving with vehicles and freight, which has resulted in a series of outbreaks in locations distant from previously established populations.

The vicious clover root weevil (CRW) was first detected in Ashburton in 2008 and is spreading throughout the South Island. AgResearch has introduced a tiny parasitic wasp as a biological control agent to limit damage caused by weevil infestations. Mr Clark said CRW had potential to create a huge problem, as it weakened clover in pastures grazed by dairy cows and other stock. “It is another pest that will take the edge off production and farmers should be vigilant. It shows how incredibly conscious we need to be about biosecurity at our borders.” AgResearch says CRW would have become more noticeable in spring and summer as larval populations turned into adults, emerging from the soil to feed on clover leaves. Small populations rapidly increase in size. Scientists say the parasitic wasp is proving every effective and spreading rapidly with the weevil. They want farmers to report CRW outbreaks so more releases of the wasp can be programmed.

A clover root weevil (left) is about to be attacked by a parasitic wasp.

Christchurch and Nelson in 2006. Fortunately for South Island farmers, the wasp was available for immediate release and AgResearch introduced large populations of the weevil at Richmond and the Rai Valley in 2006, and then again in Golden Bay in 2009 in the hope that the wasps would spread along with CRW and thereby minimise the pest’s damage in the South Island. Again, the biocontrol agent exceeded expectations by catching up with the outer limits of CRW populations in Golden Bay, Nelson and Marlborough, and then staying hot on CRW’s heels as it expanded southwards.

The wasp cannot eliminate CRW, but can suppress the pest within a year or two, alleviating some of the pressure Sampling in 2011 showed that the wasp has been carried by the weevil south as far as Springs Junction on pastures and on farmers’ pockets. and Kaikoura. It has also reached Lincoln, probably from North Canterbury or Rakaia Island where it had While the serious pest is well-established in the North previously been released. Island, CRW made its first unwelcome appearance near


Experience shows CRW is very difficult to detect during the first few years of its arrival at a new location, partly because it is initially present in low numbers and also because it spends much of its time hidden underground as a larva or pupa. The build up of CRW in a new location is insidious, and sometimes farmers only realise the pest is present once their clover has all but disappeared. Notching of white clover leaves and feeding damage on root nodules are symptoms of CRW, but careful observation is required to detect these symptoms before the pest has reached high numbers. This means AgResearch’s CRW monitoring is imperfect and some infestations could remain undetected for years unless farmers assist by being vigilant and reporting their observations. Advising AgResearch that CRW is suspected in a new location will help scientists to ensure the biocontrol agent quickly reaches the areas where it is needed. Mid Canterbury farmers who suspect that they have a CRW infestation can access the website www.agresearch. contains all the information farmers might require to assist in identifying CRW.

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Page 7

Building capable managers Contributed by IrrigationNZ –


ew Zealand is blessed by an abundance of water from which we drink, generate electricity for our homes and businesses, sustain our unique environment, provide recreational opportunities for communities and produce food for both domestic consumption and export – the latter underpinning the backbone of New Zealand’s economy. Water is a huge part of our indigenous and evolving culture and everyone recognises the importance and the responsibility involved in its sustainable management. The passion water brings out in people from all walks of life is a testament to the regard in which it is held. Irrigation New Zealand recognises this passion and the privilege and responsibility that come with having the use of a common resource. The skills needed to understand and give effect to competing demands and realise the potential of the water resource, combined with those required for its successful management are complex. Also the development of community water infrastructure such as storage involves considerable investment.

A high level of knowledge and capability is therefore required to safeguard both the resource and financial investments for future generations. With the recent announcement of the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) and the proposed Crown Investment Fund, the importance of having highly skilled and capable directors on the boards that administer irrigation infrastructure, both existing and developing is paramount. IrrigationNZ, working in partnership with MAF through the (IAF), is developing a resource to help build and support this capability need. The ‘Capability Building’ programme has been designed to provide directors and scheme managers with pathways for self improvement focusing on areas identified by industry stakeholders and their advisors, which have previously limited the successful development of irrigation schemes. The programme has three phases. The first phase engaged existing and developing schemes throughout New Zealand to better understand the experiences of rural water infrastructure development to date, from concept

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through to design, build and operate. From these three workshops a list of essential skills and knowledge was collated. The gaps and pressure points were identified and from these a rural water infrastructure development course was designed. The second phase involved delivery. The course was designed to utilise the existing knowledge of experts from other infrastructure development disciplines but was specifically focused upon the uniqueness of major irrigation development and its governance. The ranges of skills covered were legal and financial, communications, iwi and community, risk management and due diligence, service procurement, project and contract management and governance. Experts in each area delivered learning modules and associated resources which were presented to invited participants from all existing and proposed irrigation schemes and associated organisations. The first of two initial courses was held in Oamaru in early December with extremely positive feedback from all 18 participants.

The final phase of the ‘Capability Building’ programme is to create a web-based information centre that contains the course resources and also case studies of existing irrigators’ experiences as a reference for future infrastructure development. It will also hold contact details of those that have experiences to share so that previous mistakes are not repeated and the best practice will be passed on. The need for such a resource was highlighted from the initial workshops as a vital component – a live and ongoing reference easily accessible to inform the next generation of community irrigation developers. To allow the community to have confidence that the water resource is being responsibly developed and used it is necessary to demonstrate that the community leaders entrusted with its management have the correct range and level of skills. The responsibility of developing and utilising the water resource is immense and carries with it a huge responsibility to get it right for future generations allowing ongoing sustainable use, growth of our communities and enjoyment of our water resources.

Page 8


Opinions and actions create discussion Neal Shaw, ATS Chief Executive


t is traditional at this time of the year to look forward and make plans for the coming year, but in order to do this, it is often useful to look back on the year that’s been. Last year was certainly an eventful one on many levels. For Cantabrians it was dominated by earthquakes and the devastation they caused. Not only was it a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions for most of us, but it also presented authorities with on-going challenges. Usually a natural disaster is a one-off event, but earthquakes don’t conform to this rule, leaving those in charge with no template to follow. Instead all of us were presented with inconsistencies and uncertainties. Many properties in our region have now been assessed by EQC staff and many will be eligible for repairs. There will be those who will take advantage of the earthquakes to have work done at home and while they may think it is a great opportunity to get a room re-painted at the expense of their insurance company or the Government, they need to think about the consequences which have implications for all of us. If you are one of those people, maybe you should think twice about your actions. You certainly won’t be in a position to


complain about price hikes in insurance premiums. Others who aren’t in a position to complain are those who didn’t turn out to vote on Election Day. Another of last year’s big events, the General Election saw one of the lowest voter turn-outs ever. While 3.07 million people were enrolled to vote (93.7 per cent of the estimated 3.28 million eligible voters) only 73.8 per cent cast a vote in the 2011 General Election, making it one of the lowest percentage turnouts in our election history. Elections are always important, whether they are for central or local government. It is important people have their say and not opt out. Locally our elected council have had many issues, often contentious, to consider over the past 12 months. The art gallery/ museum building, the railway station, the Ashburton River Bridge, and the planned sports stadium are among the most debated.

Commentators will continue to debate why the General Election turnout was so low. Some have linked it to the fact many thought the result was a foregone conclusion and not a close race. Another theory is that a relatively short election campaign doesn’t give all voters the time needed to determine their voting options. One of the reasons the election campaign seemed short was because most of our focus was on the Rugby World Cup. After a 24-year drought the win was fantastic for the All Blacks and New Zealand.

While the council has come under much scrutiny on such issues it is worth remembering councillors are elected by the community and they are there to do a job and will be held accountable at the next election.

Such a lot has changed since 1987. Our world is a very different place and when we start to think of some of the day-today changes we now take for granted – like water quality management, nutrient budgeting and health and safety requirements, not to mention the internet and its related technology – it is not surprising to see why so much significance was placed on winning back the Webb Ellis Trophy. It was well overdue.

If people don’t like the decisions being

Back in 1987 there was no such thing

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made, then they should put themselves forward and conversely, if they agree with councillors, they need to get out on Election Day to keep those people in office.

as social networking. It is now a huge part of most of our lives. We are in an environment where we can say just about anything about anyone without any significant consequences or regard for the effect it may have on those concerned. It is worrying that we live in an era where there is so much information available to us and such a variety of forms, and yet many people are not as well informed as their predecessors. Is it because they don’t feel the need to have a good, sound general knowledge because they can just Google it? This can be a useful tool, but only if the information gained is factual and not just the opinions of others, which is often the basis of many websites. If people can’t differentiate between the two, then you would have to ask how valuable is that information? Looking back, I see I’ve touched on a number of these issues in previous articles. I’ve also commented on industry reports which, looking forward, suggest things are on the “up” especially in the rural sector locally. It’s good to revisit these while also having an eye on the future and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2012 brings.


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Irrigation feature

Page 9

An Ashburton Guardian advertising feature

Increase your crop yield with precision Is rainfall variability this summer making The Watsons have been able to achieve irrigation scheduling a challenge? a saving of around one million litres of Struggling to balance the water water per day in an area of variable soils requirements of different crops and soils since installing their Precision Irrigation under a single irrigator is a common VRI system. problem, variable rate irrigation (VRI) provides the solution with unlimited The saved water is then able to be flexibility. The Precision Irrigation VRI reallocated to other areas on the farm. Trials comparing the irrigation water use system allows you to efficiency for uniform set irrigation depths to match the requirements A SSF variable rate irrigation rate irrigation (URI) to field day is being run by variable rate irrigation for different areas DairyNZ at the Wainono Dairy (VRI) are being run underneath an irrigator. property in Fairlie. at three trial sites, Irrigation depths are varied by pulsing The field day will provide an including the Watsons’ sprinklers on and off and opportunity to discuss the VRI property, over two altering the irrigator’s trials and present the results irrigation seasons. ground speed to apply to date. The field day is on the the programmed 16th of February, starting at The MAF Sustainable rates to the different 11am, for further details visit Farming Fund trials, “management areas” the Events page on the DairyNZ headed by Carolyn Hedley of Landcare in the minimum return website. Research, are being time possible. run at Tahuna (arable/ The Precision Irrigation For more information about livestock) in the VRI system is unique how VRI may be able to produce Rangitikei, Rangitata in the ability to create similar results on your property Holdings (arable) irrigation management contact your local Zimmatic and Wainono Dairy dealer or call Precision areas to any profile Partnership both in the desired, with no spatial Irrigation Canterbury region. limitations, as every at 0800 438 627, or visit sprinkler is individually Season one provisional controlled. to read more about what the results of the irrigation water use efficiency system can do for you. Eric Watson of Rangitata trials indicate sustained Holdings in Ashburton crop and pasture yields under reduced found “Being able to match application water usage is achievable with the rates to the exact amount of water Precision Irrigation VRI system. needed to ensure the soil has enough moisture is important to water efficiency Rangitata Holdings grew wheat and and means that over-watering of crops is beans under one of their lateral-move eliminated.” irrigators which was assessed for the

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purposes of the trial. The combination of Rakaia and Wakanui soils, including stony sandy loams and silt loams and contour of the paddock produces varying irrigation requirements across the length of the irrigator. Irrigation water use efficiency was improved in both crops through VRI, with a statistically insignificant difference in crop yield.

The 174ha irrigated area at Wainono Dairies in Fairlie was divided into four zones based on variability in soils, water was able to be saved in areas where overwatering typically occurred. Pasture production was measured using a C-Dax pasture meter and was not compromised with the reduction in irrigated water.

Guardian Farming January 2012  

Ashburton Guardian - Guardian Farming January 2012

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