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Farming GUARDIAN

Guardian Ashburton

JANUARY, 2014

The burning question Page 2-3

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The burning question Michelle Nelson RURAl reporter

S

tubble burning, or burnoffs, clear paddocks of residue after the crop has been harvested. The blazes accompanied by plumes of white smoke reaching high above the Canterbury plains and a residual haze in the air, will be a familiar sight for the next few months. Arable cropping covers about 125,000 hectares nationwide, and about 90,000ha of these crops are produced in Canterbury, which accounts for 90 per cent of the country’s wheat, 70 per cent of barley, 50 per cent of oats, and 90 per cent of the small seed crop. This generates about a million tonnes of crop residue; about 700,000 tonnes in Canterbury. Much of this residue is baled, ploughed back into the soil, or left to disintegrate naturally; about 300,000 tonnes is burnt off. Clearing land using fire dates back further than the

Ashburton

Guardian

Farming GUARDIAN

Any feedback is welcome, any comments about our magazine, letters or story suggestions. Please direct any correspondence to: Michelle Nelson, on 307-7971 email: michelle.n@theguardian.co.nz or write to PO Box 77, Ashburton. Advertising: Phone 307-7974 Email: desme.d@theguardian.co.nz Publication date: January 14, 2014 Next issue: February 11, 2014 An advertising feature for the Ashburton Guardian. Any opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Guardian Farming or the Ashburton Guardian.

development of agrarian societies. Hunting and gathering people burnt off areas to stimulate new growth and to flush out prey. There is evidence Maori moa hunters used fire for that on the once forested Canterbury plains. And as happens today, it is likely these fires sometimes burned out of control. Today, legislation, regulation and codes of practice govern stubble burning in Canterbury to lessen the incidence of breakaway fires, and to keep smoke to a minimum. Nonetheless, the practice is still condemned by many. At the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) site near Chertsey, FAR research and extension director Nick Poole has been overseeing a project to demonstrate the importance of stubble burning for arable farming – particularly Mid Canterbury’s lucrative small seed industry. New Zealand’s arable industry generates $1b per annum, producing seeds, grains, peas, beans and forage for domestic and export markets. The stubble-burning demonstration plots were under the

With harvest under way, the prickly argument surrounding the practice of stubble burning is inevitably set to flare up again. Rural reporter Michelle Nelson investigates. spotlight at the Arable Research in Action field day recently. Dr Poole said the plots were set up to address the differences between Canterbury cropping systems and those of other cerealgrowing countries – such as the United Kingdom and the United States – where the practice has largely been banned. Australia has also clamped down on stubble burning in favour of no-tillage cultivation systems which combine full stubble retention.

However, Dr Poole explained farmers across the ditch operated in a different environment – with low rainfall and a short growing season. The resulting crop yields were considerably lighter than those produced on Canterbury’s soils. On average the wheat yield in Australia is about 1.5 to 2.5 tonne per hectare, whereas the New Zealand yield averaged out at almost 9t/ha last year. It stands to reason the amount of crop residue generated varies –

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3 Australian wheat crops, often stunted by lack of moisture, generate an average three tonnes of chaff (chopped straw) and stubble, compared to 12t/ha in premium New Zealand crops. The bulk of crop residue makes it more difficult to establish the next crop without tillage, as is the practice in the UK. Dr Poole said the UK does not incorporate the same grass, clover and vegetable seed crops into crop-rotation systems. In Canterbury these crops are often planted after wheat, following burn-off, and minimal cultivation. Dr Poole said a similar situation developed at an Australian trial site which generated heavier yields of 2.5 to 6t/ha during a wet year (2010), and farmers experienced difficulty drilling in the next crop. Often they were Firefighters attend to a forced into a burn-off. stubble burn-off. The demonstration plots at the FAR site enabled researchers to determine the amount of straw produced by cereal crops in comparison with Australia, and to examine a range of options. They found removing the bulk of the wheat residue facilitated the establishment of small seed crops. Burning off also helped control weeds and pest insects and lessened the requirements for agrichemicals and pesticides. However, there are concerns

about the environmental impacts of stubble burning. There is a public perception that stubble burning contributes to atmospheric carbon dioxide, but science suggests releases are only slightly greater than those from natural decomposition. While the risk to native fauna is largely confined to lizards in New Zealand, burning stubble also destroys microbes, beneficial insect colonies, and destroys the residue worms feed off and build up organic matter in the soil. Nutrient loss has also been on the agenda. In addition to the loss of carbon and CO2, removing crop residue either by baling or burning destroys 30 to 90 per cent of nitrogen. When burnt most phosphorus, potassium and magnesium is returned to the soil in the form of ash, but removed from the paddock when baled. When crop residues naturally decompose, the nutrients become available to future crops. Flames breaching fire breaks are also a concern, particularly when fanned by the nor’west winds common to the Canterbury plains. The Ashburton District Council requires fire breaks around burn-off plots to be cleared of combustible material to a minimum of five metres wide. Fires must only be lit when the wind speed is less than 15km/h.

Alternatives to stubble burning Baling: Removes most of the straw, but it leaves weed seeds, can cause soil compaction from the traffic in the paddock, and is only viable if there are reliable markets for the straw. Incorporation: Burying crop residues by ploughing uses fossil fuel and is not good for soil quality. Incorporation into the soil surface by lighter tillage is associated with weed problems. Both methods depend on equipment for chopping and spreading the crop residue which is not commonplace in New Zealand. Leaving crop residues in the paddock: Many of the high-value export seed crops cannot be produced without removing the crop residues because they are unable to germinate or grow through it. (Far.org.nz) Speaking at the FAR field day, the council’s principal rural fire officer, Don Geddes, said while most farmers took their responsibilities seriously, there were cases where they were

ill-equipped to deal with a fire getting out of control. He said the 22 fires that escaped from stubble burns last season cost $127,000 and hundreds of voluntary hours, warning prosecutions could follow if neglect was proved. Mr Geddes said fires escaped because of inadequate fire breaks, insufficient equipment and failure to accurately judge wind speeds. To reduce the risk, farmers should back-burn downwind, next to the fire break before setting the rest of the paddock alight. The council is considering requiring farmers to have 500 litres of water and a 20 metre hose at hand as a minimum standard. Farmers must acquire a permit when fire restrictions are in place, but still have a duty of care during open fire season. Burn-offs are forbidden when it is prohibited to light fires. The council can impose instant fines of $500 for breaches. A report undertaken by FAR for Environment Canterbury proposed improvements to minimise smoke problems, and considered alternatives. ECan agreed to continue to allow stubble burning, but for how long that is anyone’s guess. Regulations differ across Canterbury with each district council setting their own standards.

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4 This is the second of a monthly series on fishing and hunting in Mid Canterbury by Greg Martin, who is a lawyer at White Fox & Jones, Ashburton (gem@whitefox.co.nz)

Sea runners Top: Baches line the banks at Hakatere providing views of the Ashburton River mouth. Left: The Rangitata River mouth with birds flying is a sure sign of fish below.

A moment later he was flat on his face in the wet sand. It was a hard fall. As he picked himself up the fish was swallowed over

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Canterbury is world-class. In Scotland they are difficult to catch, and a 0.68kg (1½lb) fish is often as good as it gets. The fish lost at the mouth of the Ashburton that November evening could have been 9kg (20lb). That is no exaggeration. And it was not a salmon. We’d seen it in the waves before it came in and wolfed

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the sandy shelf back into the churning milky blue where it disappeared. Sea-run trout fishing in Mid

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ne lens of the elderly man’s spectacles was hazy with sand and saltwater, but it was one of those moments where not being able to see properly didn’t really matter. The heart was racing and the mind was still coming to terms with what had just happened. “That joker wasn’t much help,” he said as he shuffled back up the beach towards me winding in his line. The joker in question was a younger man who had made a one-handed attempt to land the sea-run trout that the elderly man had battled into

the shallows at the mouth of the Ashburton River. You could see it was going to be a disaster. And it was. After being washed in on a wave, the tired fish had given a twist in the foaming white and the hook came free. The wave had quickly switched to running out again, and the fish turned back towards the sea. One hand was never going to be enough to stop it swimming past the younger man’s legs. The size of the fish warranted so much more. It was colossal, and the elderly man beside me knew it. Feeling a fisherman’s terror of no longer being connected, and realising that the younger man’s efforts were going to be ineffectual, the elderly man had tried to run forward and save his fish, but this had lasted only one or two steps. His mind may have thought he could do it, but his legs couldn’t any more.

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5 Tips for catching sea-run trout in Mid Canterbury • The really big fish are in the sea, not in the river. • Be ready in OctoberNovember. • Dawn and dusk in the surf, night time in the rivers. • Wear a life jacket when fishing in the gut. • Help the old timers up when they fall over. It will give you something no fish ever will. the man’s rubber lure fished below a lead sinker. A few days later I saw a smaller one beached, and that weighed 6.8kg (15lb). Yes, that joker wasn’t much help, and I felt terribly sorry for my new fishing friend as he shuffled back up the beach dripping wet, peering at me from behind his sandy glasses. But he was smiling, and there was no bitterness there at all. That joker wasn’t much help: the calm understated humorous perspective that only comes with having lived for many many years and

acknowledging that you don’t have many left. This is one of the things that makes spending time on the beach at the mouths of the Mid Canterbury rivers so rewarding. There are the young, the not so young (like myself ), and the ones who bought their baches back in the 1960s such as that man who lost that colossal searunner. Back in those days, after working four 12-hour shifts at the Feltex factory in Christchurch, he and his friends would pack his old Datsun with beer and food and head down

Got ‘em: A sea-run trout.

to Hakatere for their three-day weekend. Those were the days. But as that afternoon showed, the years may make it difficult for you to run, but on the beach the good days never end. That’s what his smile said to me after he had lost that fish. I will never forget it.

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6

Walk this way

The stunning landscape of the Lake Heron basin: trampers from all over the world come here when they walk the Te Araroa trail.

from ARU e v i TIM lus Exc OP™ OW SH N L H O STI EM

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Mary Ralston

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he Te Araroa trail is a walking track that runs the length of New Zealand. For 3000 kilometres, from Cape Reinga to Bluff, walkers can stay on a route through land that is either publicly owned or on private land through which access rights have been organised. Te Araroa (The Long Pathway) is billed as “the ultimate 120day New Zealand experience”, but of course, short sections can be walked too, which accommodates people of any age or fitness level or time constraint. The route offers good daywalk opportunities and some sections are great overnight or multi-day options for the novice walker or seasoned tramper. The trail is not just in rugged back-country – it links existing tramping tracks with recently made routes, and short sections go through settlements so that walkers have the opportunity to resupply, have the occasional

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7 hot shower and comfy bed, and “meet the locals”. It is a fantastic concept – to walk from one end of the country to the other, taking in all the geographic variety New Zealand can offer: the ocean, estuaries, wetlands, bush, forest, volcanoes, glacial landscapes, braided rivers and high-country tussock grasslands. Culturally you are also spoilt for choice – en route there are remote back-country huts to stay in, maraes to visit, small country pubs and local stores to quench your thirst and provide some conversation. Locally, the Te Araroa trail runs from the Rakaia River to the Rangitata (the major rivers are not included in the trail and walkers are warned to be very cautious about crossing them). After crossing the Rakaia at the gorge bridge, the trail begins again on the south side of the river at Glenrock Stream. Here there is access through farmland to take walkers up on to the tops at Turton’s Saddle, which is near the boundary of the Hakatere Conservation Park. Ten kilometres farther on is Comyns Hut, an old musterer’s hut that is a good place to stay the night before following

Tramping the Te Araroa trail – a tramper looks back towards Clent Hills Saddle.

streams and tussock-covered slopes to gain Clent Hills Saddle. From the saddle there are fabulous views of the Lake Heron basin and once down the other side there is Double Hut for the next night’s accommodation. The trail comes out on to the Heron-Hakatere Road near the Lake Emily turnoff then leaves it again just after Buick’s Bridge, heading over the old glacial terraces that are so characteristic of this area. The track goes between Mt Guy and

the Dogs Range and then sidles above Lake Clearwater. Having Te Araroa going through our backyard showcases our stunning local landscape to hundreds of walkers every year, and the trail’s popularity is likely to increase as word gets out – there are many internet reports and blogs made by walkers that sing the praises of “a long walk”. Walkers dropping in to local towns to resupply shows that conserving the back country and its biodiversity is not just worthwhile for

Comyns Hut provides a welcome place to stay on the route from Turton’s Saddle to the Ashburton Lakes.

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8

Advertising feature Article provided by Environment Canterbury

The positives of using native plants in shelterbelts P

roperty owners thinking about autumn planting to replace exotic shelterbelts lost during last year’s storms might want to consider going native. It’s also a good time to make sure your trees are not going to bring down power lines in future storms – remember trees on your land are your responsibility, not the lines company. Hedges and shelterbelts are a great practical way of bringing native plants back into productive landscapes. Native shelterbelts that flower year-round provide a continuous supply of food and maintain healthier, larger populations of pollinators. Using a mixture of native and exotic species has significant benefits such as low maintenance, reduced wind erosion, habitat for pollinators, resistance to drought, frost and snow break, and higher dry matter yields. Alternatively, fencing off native scrub such as manuka, kanuka and matagouri helps with stock and grazing management, provides a boundary between scrub and productive farmland and can be excellent shelter. It is also one of the cheapest options. There are many plants that can be used for shelter. Plants should be eco-sourced (locally collected seed) to ensure they are the best for local conditions.

Well planted area of native plants.

How to establish a shelterbelt Tall shelter should be established outside an irrigator area, or on property boundaries and away from power lines. Double fence a 2 metre to 3 metre-wide area for a single row shelter, or 3m to 4m for a double row shelter. Fast growing native or conifer species should be 1m to 2m apart. Poplar species should be 1m to 2m metres apart where shading is an issue. Tall native or slower growing exotic species should be used as a second row. Stock shelter can be planted underneath an irrigator (either in several straight rows north to south or circles, depending on track and paddock set-up) or as a row with the tall shelter. Double fence a 2m wide area (or an additional 1.5m if adding to tall shelter). Plant a single row to create dense shelter, 1.5m to 2m tall. Fast growing natives or conifers should be 1m to1.5m apart.

Area without a shelterbelt.

Cut down, trim early, keep safe To help mitigate the adverse effects that trees can have on your power supply, we recommend that property owners take great care maintaining their on-property trees: CUT DOWN trees that may fall across electricity lines TRIM EARLY to keep branches at least 2.5m from low voltage and 4m from high voltage electricity lines KEEP SAFE by always treating electricity lines as live at all times.

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Advertising feature Article provided by Environment Canterbury

Time to plan for F winter feed crops

armers wanting to plant winter feed crops should plan carefully to minimise the risk of nutrient loss and wastage. Stock numbers on paddocks with winter feed are more intensive than normal, and there are likely to be increased levels of nitrogen (from urine) and phosphorus (from dung) in the soil. Having stock grazing in wet, cold conditions also leads to increased soil erosion and pugging in an environment where plant growth is minimal and nutrients can be lost from the soil. With crops yielding more, greater numbers of stock can be fed – increasing the risks, which are greatest on clay downlands and stony soils on the plains.

Recommendations to reduce nutrient losses

Feed pads and indoor cow barns are the most effective means of reducing nutrient loss.

Many farmers are already using OVERSEER® to model nutrient losses to better manage nutrients – and this is a requirement for all farmers under the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan. But with phosphate lost mainly via soil through overland flow and nitrates lost mainly through leaching, use of the appropriate paddocks for winter feed crops is essential. Paddocks should be used where runoff can be reduced or managed, the soil has minimal leaching

9

potential, there is no subsurface drainage, no waterways flowing through or adjacent, and a good supply of reticulated water. Erosion losses can be reduced by cultivating along the contour to reduce runoff, grazing from the top of a slope and using the crop as a filter for sediment and dung, and having a reasonable vegetated buffer or riparian strip between the crop and the waterway. During winter, farmers should also keep stock out of paddocks and critical source areas in wet conditions, and use on-off grazing to reduce the density of urine patches. Using a feed pad or standoff area, and keeping stock off land that has already been grazed, is also recommended. Feed pads and indoor cow barns are the most effective means of reducing nutrient loss. They are the most expensive, but will also provide benefits such as improved feed utilisation and less waste. However winter grazing is managed, additional nitrogen and phosphorous will accumulate in soils, which can be taken up by actively growing plants. Some farmers have successfully sown crops such as short rotation ryegrasses or oats which grow in cooler soil temperatures. These are sown as soon as possible after stock have grazed on the main winter feed crop.

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DRINKING WATER Ensure water quality remains high where it is currently. Prevent further decline where it must currently be treated.

HINDS CATCHMENT native wildlife

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REGIONAL & NATIONAL ECONOMIES Maintain contribution water makes to Canterbury’s economy. Water maintenance to be considered to have regional economic value.

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ENVIRONMENTAL LIMITS Set and achieve flow, catchment and nutrient limits.

WATER-USE EFFICIENCY Achieve high levels of best-practice water use for all irrigation, stockwater and commercial use.

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10

Scientists study growth puzzle By Janette Busch

R

Studies are showing that the genetic growth potential in sheep is only realised when sheep are well fed.

only true when the sheep were well feed (170 per cent of maintenance metabolisable energy requirement, in this case). For this trial, two groups of 14 Coopworth sheep from Ashley Dene, a Lincoln University dry land farm were selected. Dr Cheng chose the groups based on Sheep Improvement Limited (SIL) data taken from farm records – one group from a non-improved strain from the

RU RO R AD AL S

esearch by a group of scientists, Dr Paul (Long) Cheng, Chris Logan, Professor Grant Edwards and Dr Huitong Zhou, from the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Lincoln University, is helping to unravel a long-standing puzzle in the farming world. “Traditional wisdom among farmers is that sheep with the genetic potential to grow faster will be more efficient at converting their feed into weight gain (known as higher feed conversion efficiency) than sheep without this genetic potential,” said Dr Cheng, the lead researcher.  “Work in this field has, however, been restricted by the inability to make accurate measurements of the intake of individual animals.”   Dr Cheng discovered to his surprise, after analysing the results of measurements taken during the trial, that the expectation that sheep with the potential to grow faster would be more efficient was

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1990s with low genetic growth potential (with an average of 124 in the SIL Dual Purpose Overall Index for growth), and the other from an improved strain with high genetic growth potential (with an average of 1711 in the SIL Dual Purpose Overall Index for growth).  Dr Cheng further divided each group into two feed allowance groups (170 per cent and 110 per cent of maintenance metabolisable

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energy requirements) balanced for live weight and age for the five-week trial. All sheep were fed on commercial lucerne pellets. Regular measurements were taken throughout the trial, including individual sheep live weight and daily intake.  Dr Cheng found that at the low feed allowance level (110 per cent of maintenance metabolisable energy requirement), the sheep with low genetic growth potential actually performed better compared with the high genetic growth potential sheep, with 49 per cent and 71 per cent higher average daily gain (ADG) and feed conversion efficiency, respectively.   “This may be due to the higher maintenance requirement of high genetic growth potential sheep with larger organs, as previously found in high producing dairy cows,” said Dr Cheng.  In addition, Dr Cheng used this dataset to validate his newly developed stable

1.49%

nitrogen isotope technique to indicate feed conversion efficiency. He took weekly blood samples from each sheep and also sampled the mid-side wool of each sheep at the end of the trial. It came out with a promising relationship, that both stable nitrogen isotope concentration in blood and wool provided a good indication of the feed conversion efficiency of the individual sheep. Dr Cheng believes this may be developed in the future as a cost-effective way of assessing larger numbers of sheep.  “It has been very satisfying to be able to expand on the research I did for my PhD studies and apply it to another common farming system,” said Dr Cheng  Dr Cheng will continue to use this newly developed isotope technique to further his postdoctoral research in the use of plantain and chicory for heifer production, which is funded by AGMARDT, New Zealand. 

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Locals take the lead A

s a new year roles around we are all looking forward to the opportunities that this brings. Taking the lead at the local STIHL Shop TM Ashburton is father and son team Neil and Sam Bromfield. Having recently taken over the management of the STIHL Shop TM Ashburton, Neil and Sam thought the best way to let you know was by having it thrown right at your door. It’s not only STIHL outdoor power equipment that you will find there though. These two are keeping busy being in partnership with Can-Am motorcycles and allterrain vehicles, Spyder road bikes, Masport, Rover and Hustler mowing equipment. From farming to commercial and everyday domestic jobs, the shelves have been stocked to suit any need you might have. Although the name STIHL probably evokes the memory

of a roaring chainsaw in most of us Neil and Sam have made it their mission to bring a lot more to the STIHL name and shop. Brush cutters, hedge trimmers, combi systems and earth augers, vacuum cleaners, vacuum shredders, water blasters, leaf blowers, as well as a huge selection of accessories, parts and servicing. It seems like they have everything but the kitchen sink down there. Being local they also know how important having a solid lawn mower is especially here in Mid Canterbury. In store they stock the award winning Masport push and ride-on mowers, as well as Rover ride-on mowers and tillers. Not to be left out is the Hustler, a heavy-duty commercial zero-turn mower! The Can-Am motorcycle range is sourced from Canada, and has made huge inroads over the past few years

into a market traditionally dominated by Japanese manufacturers. They really have the right idea not only stocking an extensive range of Can-Am ATVs but also the amazing Spyder road bikes. The Spyder bikes in particular feature a unique, yet exhilarating, motoring experience which is extremely cost effective and one that you only need a car license to ride one. They would like to welcome you into the store for a demonstration and free quote if this has whetted your appetite. All in all this is a family operated business with a true passion for what they do. The staff has a great blend of youth and experience with two of the staff having lived in Ashburton for more than 100 years! Back row - Sam Bromfield (manager), Taylor Go on down and see the team, they Front row - Lester, Jude, and Neil Bromfield are STIHL there! (manager).


12

Most irrigators back at work B

y now most irrigators damaged in last September’s storm are back on-farm doing the job we expect them to do at this time of the year. Yes, there are a few farmers still waiting – some of the last corner-arm repairs may take until March to complete. But overall the majority of irrigators damaged in September 10’s wind event are now working. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the scale of the job our service industry has undertaken on our behalf. More than 800 irrigation systems across the region were left broken and twisted within 24 hours. Irrigation service companies were already gearing up for a busy month with pre-season maintenance and new systems. Overnight they had to respond to a crisis situation and in our eyes have coped admirably. IrrigationNZ would like

to reiterate the role of Immigration New Zealand who fast-tracked Visas for overseas irrigation technicians. Accelerating the application process meant local irrigation service companies could re-organise their resources and respond more quickly to customer needs. A dedicated point of contact provided by Immigration New Zealand proved effective in streamlining enquiries and facilitating support. From an insurance point of view, we applaud those companies that saw sense in putting people on the ground within days and have dealt with claims quickly and fairly. We’ve heard of a few “obstructive” assessors but farmers have long memories and poor customer service won’t be forgotten easily. We are talking about millions of dollars of irrigation infrastructure and a short

window of opportunity and our insurance partners need to understand these drivers. So what have we learnt? In a few words, expect the unexpected and be prepared. IrrigationNZ is currently

drawing together expert risk management advice for irrigators. As part of this, we have been in touch with the University of Canterbury Engineering Department to see if it could

provide calculations to assess risk scenarios. Our riskmanagement advice will be made widely available via our website www.irrigationnz.co.nz this year. Now we’re in the New Year,

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Farming – facing the challenges ahead John Leadley RURAL COLUMNIST

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n early October 2005, I was approached by the owner, general manager and editor of the Ashburton Guardian to write an opinion piece for a soon to be introduced monthly Guardian Farming supplement. I offered to trial the suggestion for six months and as the role was unpaid I would make the rules. These were accepted on the basis that – I write, Guardian prints – the basis for any opinion article, I believe. At that time my role in the community was deputy mayor and it was suggested any topic covering farming, politics, the economy, the district or current

affairs would be acceptable. My lack of any journalism skills did not seem to be an issue. I accepted the challenge on the basis that any enhanced understanding of rural issues by the predominant urban population could only bring mutual benefits to both. Little did I realise that over eight years, 100 issues and well over a 100,000 words later I would still be contributing! While taking absolutely no credit for the situation I firmly believe that the interdependence of the rural and urban economy in the Ashburton district continues to be better understood by both groups of residents. Indeed we are one community. The often heard sarcasm of “townies” a generation ago, of cockies and their “flash” cars is a well buried myth. Just observe the urban tanks manoeuvring for position outside any pre-

school on a damp day. And those comments about sheep farmers just sitting back and watching the wool grow. That new car that could have been bought from the wool cheque from 300 sheep in 1988 would require a flock of 3000 today. Another factor that has helped weld the total community together is the huge number of rural persons who gain their employment income within the urban boundary and vice versa. Indeed we are but one community. When I first wrote for edition one of Guardian Farming it was under the heading “Where to from Here?” I prophesised that the next 10 years would be a period of sound economic growth based around the farming sector and specifically the more efficient use of our land and water resources, but that the

sustainable health of these would become an increasingly important concern. Indeed this has proven to be the case. The shift from border-dyke flood irrigation to pivot, lateral and rotary boom has vastly increased the area

under irrigation without a consequential increase in total water volume used. These progressive application efficiencies, coupled with known and measured water and nutrient requirements applied using GPS controlled

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technology, have not only increased crop and pasture yields, but pointed farmers clearly down a path of long term planning of soil and water health. This clearly is the future for our district’s farmers.

National awards for a number of our dairy, sheep and arable operators in the district have proven just what can be achieved by using a modern approach to soil and water health. I’m convinced that many more farmers who operate well below the radar of media scrutiny are just as proficient. The key of course is that in future they will be subjected to intensive bureaucratic scrutiny. My plea is that a strong measure of common sense is applied to all scenarios, as after all the vagaries and extremes of mother-nature will still dictate, as they did throughout 2013. I believe that the small percentage of farmers who ignore or abuse the privilege of being custodians of productive land in respect of water quality, pose a much greater threat to the nation’s economy, than the most extreme of the “greenie” brigade. This applies whether local or international. Much and all as I loathe excessive legislation and regulation, if as a nation we are to continue our “clean and green” trading advantage on world markets into the future, we simply must ensure our exports meet the highest world standard. That surely is part of

the margin that counters our distance from major markets. Fail in this regard, as we nearly did in 2013 with the milkcontamination scandal, and the results could be catastrophic. When Statistics New Zealand predicted a virtual stagnant or declining population for the Ashburton district 10 years ago, Mayor Murray Anderson was rightly indignant and predicted a rise to 30,000 plus as has occurred. Successive district councils have continued to move projects forward at sustainable debt levels with the completion of several key community assets, both infrastructural and recreational. With unemployment levels in the district at 1 per cent, one fifth of the national average, and economic growth second highest in the South Island, we are privileged to live in Ashburton. I believe that with careful planning of soil and water use and added diversity to our economic base, this district will continue to flourish and provide the range of employment, housing, recreational and business opportunities that have existed for the past few years. One concern I have looking

forward is the dominance of dairy expansion and the reliance on a single farm type into the future. With payouts at today’s levels the situation is totally understandable, but not the type of farming balance for long term sustainability. While arable agriculture has received a significant boost from dairy grazing options enabling farms to remain profitable, this may not always be the case. Aforementioned irrigation and nutrient efficiencies have much more to give in respect of arable agriculture. Surely as a food-producing country we should not be importing grain-fed pork products and huge volumes of palm kernel as feedstock. I understand wheat production is one fifth the tonnage of palm kernel importation. While economically viable the biosecurity risks are real and threatening As always Ashburton will continue to rely heavily on farming production for its future prosperity. With continuing food shortage worldwide we must find a way to diversify. The opportunities are here – it’s up to us to grasp them.

Amazing century Every columnist will tell you that producing a regular column can be a burden. This is especially the case when writing is not your regular activity. That’s why the Guardian wants to congratulate John Leadley for producing 100 columns in Guardian Farming. Despite his many other commitments, the former councillor has delivered his interesting and thoughtprovoking views across a wide range of subjects, month after month. On behalf of the readers of Guardian Farming and team at the Guardian, we thank Mr Leadley for his contributions and hope he will be part of this publication for some years to come. Coen Lammers Editor

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Wool-rice straw fabric created A

new wool and rice straw China are projected to be very (LEED certification) and one blended upholstery significant. European retailer has expressed fabric, which has been Last month she visited the top interest in taking The Formary’s developed by a Wellington 10 North American furniture entire initial production, even company, goes into commercial manufacturers and distributors before commercial fabric production next year with the to show their prototype samples are available. potential to create significant samples and start building The new textile called Mibu® demand for New Zealand interest and demand. will be woven in China under a crossbred wool, while helping Early this year they will recently signed memorandum solve a massive air pollution spend up to three months of understanding between The problem in China. working with their Chinese Formary and its manufacturing CROP STORAGEmanufacturing AND HANDLING The Formary is a Wellington partners in SYSTEMS partner, Zhejiang Furun Textile us at the South IslandtoField Site 740-741 Company. textile design and Visit development Zhejiang fine Days tune the company that SYSTEMS creates solely production process and The 70drying, per cent wool-30 per PMR GRAIN work in the following fields – product storage, handling and timber drive on ventilating cleaning industry, milling and mixing equipment, sustainable interior textiles. Itfloors, seed commercialise the product. cent rice straw woven fabric has electronic monitoring equipment including temperature, RH and grain moisture equipment. already has a track record with After that they will be the potential to use all of the Dairy Feed Systems now available. its WoJo® upholstery fabrics in the United wool New Zealand can grow in PMR GRAIN SYSTEMS supply a full confirming service from orders initial contact, site surveying, planning in branddrawings, created from recycled Statesofand Europeinstallation with the and commissioning. the mid 26 to 30 micron range, machinery selection, supply machinery, jute fibre from coffee sacks commercial production runs while at the same time helping blended with New Zealand expected to start around May reduce China’s massive air wool. or June. pollution problem caused by But the wool-rice straw Ms Casey said a Federal burning waste straw after the blended textile appears to tax rebate is available for rice harvest. have a much bigger future. US companies that use “We can scale up the One of The Formary’s coenergy-efficient certified production runs very quickly PERRY GRAIN DRIERS, founders, Bernadette Casey, sustainable products in their and if early indication of ELEVATORS & GSI the SILOSproduction runs out of CONVEYORS said refurbishments or new builds demand is correct we will have

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From the paddock to the shed, wool is finding a new use in an upholstery fabric. The wool-rice straw blend, which was created in Wellington, is gearing for a worldwide launch.

The product was launched in London and caught the eye of Prince Charles, who is leading a global Campaign for Wool and he awarded the directors his Sustainable Development Award, while Kevin McCloud from the British television show Grand Designs gave WoJo® a

Green Hero Award as one of the 10 best Eco products on the market. Ms Casey said the Wellington City Council and the Zhejiang Economic and Information Technology Commission had been enormously helpful recognising the opportunity

and getting the manufacturing project off the ground. “The Formary’s latest success is another great result for their sustainable business, building economic success while reducing pollution and waste,” said Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. “The business relationship with the Furun Textile Company highlights the importance of our region’s relationship with the Zhejiang Province and our strategic economic partnership we formed between our regions with

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2012’s Memorandum of Understanding.” The rice straw fabric cost about the same as other wool blend upholstery materials, but the high silica content of straw enhances the existing flame resistant properties of wool, a stark contrast to the oilbased synthetic products that dominate the market. Ms Casey said they chose Zhejiang Furun Textile company because of its capability and track record in second-generation textiles. “Wool is a brilliant carrier for

other fibres, while the straw fibre enhances the properties of wool, such as improving flame resistance and durability, making the fabric more hard wearing,” she said. With an idea so big, how does The Formary protect its intellectual property? The Formary has taken a patent out on its idea, but Ms Casey said it was also important for companies to build trust and integrity with their partners. Ms Casey said good ideas can never be totally protected and people quickly build on them with second- and thirdgeneration versions “because that’s how things evolve and you have got to be pragmatic.” “On top of that you build the brand and promote your product. Being first to market gives you an advantage, because you can build demand ahead of your competitors.” Ms Casey said the demand for food production is projected to double in the next 40 years to meet growing demands from an additional 2 billion people, making it logical that arable and productive land producing single-purpose fibre crops like cotton would have to give way to dual purpose crops that produced both food and fibre.

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Festive wishes come true By Dr Tony Davoren

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hile the festive season might have passed and we can now look forward to Christmas 2014 (why do radio stations and others begin the countdown so soon), another wish came true. Just when it was getting, or had got desperate for some, Canterbury came to the rescue with a million dollar rainfall. Had I been writing a few weeks ago – and I am glad I wasn’t because of the mad Christmas rush; I would have had a Christmas wish list something like this: A widespread 55-60mm rainfall; No cold temperatures; No irrigation requirement so the labour units and the irrigation equipment could have a Christmas break; and time for everyone to enjoy the Christmas-New Year break. It sort of all came together

really. Canterbury got the 50mm rainfall; some quite a bit more and some a little less. No matter, irrigator or not, rain can’t be beaten when it comes to replenishing soil moisture. As the soil moisture trace pictured shows, no matter the attention to irrigation it is the rainfall events that are most valuable. From the start of November there has been pressure (not huge, but still pressure) on irrigation on the medium to lighter soil types. The rains of late November (25-26), midDecember (17-19) and then again at Christmas are “lifesavers”, even under irrigation. These are the water inputs that more uniformly replenish and refill the soil profile. For the most part there is little drainage (peaks in the 200 to 300mm soil moisture trace) compared to irrigation. So why is that? Irrigation is an imperfect science, despite what

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• On a soil type with an infiltration capacity of about 15 to 20mm/hour. No complicated logic required here: • If A (water application rate) is greater than B (soil infiltration capacity); then something else happens to the water applied (in this case on this soil type, drainage). Can we do anything about A being greater than B? Not a great deal because as I noted above, irrigation is an imperfect science. Irrigation is not: • Perfectly uniform (at best maybe 90 per cent); • Perfectly managed (the best

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Soil moisture record for a mid-plains pasture on Lismore silt loam, where are irrigation events.

operators achieve about 90 per cent application efficiency); • Perfectly designed applying 4mm/hour (imagine the number of irrigators required to achieve that application rate!); • In little old New Zealand able to precisely forecast the next rainfall or amount. But with good design and management practice we can get A closer to B and irrigate when B is closer to A (infiltration capacity is higher when the soil moisture content is lower). Now there is a useful New Year resolution. That brings me back to the “million dollar rainfall”. For those dryland and “busted” irrigator farmers it has a nostalgic ring to it and conjures up a rosy feeling. The cliche has clung on since the time when a million dollars was a measure of immense wealth and out of reach of most. An article in the Milwaukee Journal in July 1953 using “the old cost of living index” concluded a “million dollar rainfall” in the 1935-39 base period was worth $1,910,000 in July 1953. And remember these were US dollars. Oh what Google can throw up. No matter, the Christmas rainfall was just that – a “million dollar rainfall” albeit for just a few hectares today.

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20

Taking care of farm plastic waste Sheryl Stivens MASTAGARD ASHBURTON

I

n their daily activities farmers use a range of plastic materials including silage wrap, baling twine, feed sacks, pesticide and herbicide containers and the list goes on. What happens to all of this plastic when it is no longer needed is the burning question. The good news is that the common practice of burning agricultural plastics on farms became illegal in Canterbury as of January 1 this year. Some may ask – Why is burning plastics an issue? Agricultural plastics burn easily but incompletely in an open-burning scenario. This leads to the release of carbon monoxide as well as many other air pollutants. In addition hazardous by-products can be present in the residual ash and

in airborne emissions in the form of heavy metals and most alarmingly dioxins and furans. Dioxins and furans are a health concern even in tiny quantities being associated with heart disease, endocrine disruption, cognitive and motor disabilities. Humans can be exposed to dioxins through plants and through meat as they concentrate in animal fat. This suggests that the burning of farm plastics and the associated dioxin generation is of concern for us as producers and exporters of clean safe food. The reality is the burning of farm plastics occurs on foodproducing land and has the potential to impact on many people as the dioxins land on crops and are concentrated in the bodies of farm animals. So what about smoke inhalation? Emissions of other air pollutants associated with open burning of plastics include volatile organics such as benzene, fine particulate

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plastics is of particular concern to the Great Lakes Basin Watershed. The dioxins and furans that are released during the incomplete combustion of plastic products pose a serious threat to water creatures and fish, wildlife, soil fertility and humans. Both dioxins and furans are carcinogenic and likely play a role in endocrine disruption. So next time you smell or see your neighbours or workers burning plastics wise them up and make them accountable. They are impacting on our children’s health and the health of the food we are growing.

matter, polycarbons and heavy metals. These pollutants are all inhaled – the principal pathway into humans being through inhalation of smoke from burning plastics. So the risks associated with breathing in the emissions from burning plastics are borne by the farmer, his family and workers and the community. No

wonder some of us feel pretty angry – whether we live in the town or the country when we smell burning plastic from our neighbour’s rubbish or stand around a brazier on a starry night and some idiot throws plastic into the flames. According to a Chinese report on the burning of farm plastics, organic compounds that do not biodegrade are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and 12 of the most harmful of these chemicals have been restricted or banned internationally by the 2004 Stockholm Convention on POPs. These compounds linger in the environment for a long time and can enter the human body through food or respiration, causing poisoning, cancer and even death. Could burning farm plastics contaminate our soils? A Canadian report on burning agricultural plastics found that burning 450kg of agricultural waste has the potential to contaminate 75,000kg or 75 tonnes of soil from exposure to dioxins. The burning of agricultural

Best practice on farms and recycling farm plastics • Farmers can recycle their used wraps through Plasback, a product stewardship scheme which recovers used farm plastics for recycling. Silage wrap, silage pit covers, baling twine, polypropylene feed sacks and fertiliser bags and the Eco Lab & FIL100-litre or 200l drums are all recyclable under the complete user-pays scheme to the farm gate. For more information call 0508 338 240 or check out www.plasback.co.nz. • Agrecovery accept triplerinsed 20l plastic chemical containers. For details see www.agrecovery.co.nz • Help is only a phone call away and the Education Team at Mastagard can help you with free advice or a walk through waste audit to look at what types of waste your farm has and what the options are for recycling. This service is supported by Ashburton District Council. Call 0800 627-824 or email bholley@mastagard.co.nz or sherylstivens@gmail.com Ashburton Guardian

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22

Getting the most out of nutrition F

arm nutrient company SealesWinslow is running a series of seminars and workshops to help dairy farmers achieve higher production, margins and profits. SealesWinslow’s Routes to Profitable Milk Production roadshow, which started in the Waikato in late October, has been rated highly for content and relevance by farmers attending. Animal nutrition expert for SealesWinslow, James Hague, has been demonstrating how farmers can master the art of balancing the diet to fully feed the herd and benefit from better production from grass, higher production per cow and per hectare, higher margins and more profit. In recognition of the value an integrated approach to farm nutrients can deliver for farming businesses, SealesWinslow has partnered with parent company Ballance Agri-Nutrients to bring the roadshow to farmers around the country.

Ballance general manager of animal nutrition, Graeme Smith, says the series is part of the co-operative’s commitment to ensure farmers have access to the latest nutritional and technical information to drive farm profitability. “We’ve had tremendous feedback to date with farmers commenting on how useful the information is, how they can apply it on-farm and the value they place on seeing first-hand the technology tools available to them like our milk production Tracker software,” Mr Smith said. Mr Hague says that the programme, developed in New Zealand, generates lactation curves for each animal in a herd and combined them to produce a production curve. The model behind Tracker has been tested over the last three seasons, using a large dataset across a range of herds, breeds and regions. “Milk production data tells us a huge amount about the nutrition of the herd and by understanding what changes

Roadshows about herd nutrition are proving valuable to farmers.

in milk composition tell us, we can help farmers make better informed decisions about how to balance the herd’s diet to improve feed conversion efficiency, extending lactation while maintaining good cow condition,” Mr Hague said. “With the high forecast payout this season and bank accounts still suffering from the impact of last season’s drought,

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farmers have been keen to learn more about the impact of good diet and its contribution to higher production, margins and profit.” The series has two events – a free seminar to provide an overview of issues impacting on profitable milk production, and a one-day workshop designed to empower farmers to take the next step, at a cost

of $499 an individual or couple. Participants can attend one or both of the events. Further sessions will be held in more than 30 places this year, and expressions of interest are welcome. Farmers interested in participating in an event should register with their Ballance or SealesWinslow consultant, or by email to sales@sealeswinslow.co.nz

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24

Rural options aplenty for 2014 Chris Murdoch rural Real estate agent

W

here did this year go to? It only seemed like yesterday that we were celebrating 2013 into the New Year. I was once told by an old guy (probably the same age as I am now) that the older you get the quicker the time goes – how right he was. Rural real estate seems to be ruled by what happens in the dairy industry these days. If you want to achieve a good sale you must somehow tie the sale to dairying or dairy support. Once upon a time the pig was said to hang off the cow’s tail, now it’s almost everything in Mid Canterbury. Sales in Canterbury as a whole have been strong with one sale of $60,000 a hectare excluding Fonterra shares – possibly a

record for our region – and several other sales in between $52,000 a hectare and $57,000 a hectare achieved for a unit in Lowcliffe and sold by our company at auction. Basically everything that has been put to the market apart from one or two have sold and achieved excellent results. Coming into the New Year there seems to me to be several large issues that not everyone, including myself, have got our minds completely around at all. This includes nutrient budgeting, nitrogen to water etc, and how these things are going to affect farming moving forward. The other issue sitting out here is the cost of Fonterra shares versus return on capital invested in these shares. Luckily, in Mid Canterbury we have several choices of dairy company to supply so once again we are in the right spot partnerships. Canterbury’s most cases the property sells for choices. market is way too fast most of during this period. We are often asked who the time for overseas buyers All in all 2013 was a strong is buying – in most cases as they need the property to year for rural sales with a good it is individual farmers or have been through a marketing demand and supply. Finally, we farming partnerships, from programme and not sold Property Brokers wish you We partnerships stock a wide range including Brewing, cookingat family to equity before they can operate. In and your families a great 2014.

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25

Over coming ill-thrift M

andy is an ex-racehorse that Justine ‘aquired’ when the owner didn’t want her any more. Justine had always wanted her own horse but didn’t bank on the problems that came with this one! Mandy was in very poor condition and Justine was at a loss of what to do. Mandy had projectile manure and would not put on any weight. Her urine had a pH of 10 and so did her manure (just goes to show it isn’t always acidosis!). Mandy was extremely “up there”: bargy, flighty, spooky, over-reactive and therefore outright dangerous lead anywhere. One look at the paddock and we could immediately see the problem. In a nutshell, short green grass growing in perpetually wet ground. This was causing a major mineral imbalance which meant the flora in the hind-gut were not surviving and she wasn’t getting the nutrition from her food. Justine had all sorts of advice from well meaning, but misguided people about what she should be feeding and nothing had so far worked. Pro-biotics and other gut “helpers” went straight through, too. Poor Justine was beside

herself and she was even thinking the horse would have to be put down. So we recommended big diet changes for Mandy: Justine had a great spot under the trees where there was zero grass. As she had been eating some hay everyday there was no problem to transition her to a 100 percent hay diet. Then it took four to five days diet for her manure to firm up. The pH came down to seven with the help of the right supplements in a basic daily feed. A good part of Mandy’s problems were due to a chronic lack of salt. She was showing the classic signs of ill-thrift and her coat was dull and dry as you can see. Salt is sodium chloride and the sodium is required to transport nutrients across the cell membrane while the chloride part helps to balance electrolytes and achieve the correct pH. Then the hindgut flora can flourish. Very simple! Nowadays she spends night times in her pen with as much hay as she will consume and gets to spend most of the day out on the grass. She is a completely different horse, calm and now $1850 excl nice to be around and in a “learning frame of mind” so ready to now move$1400 on exclBefore: when we first Mandy. and be “restarted”.

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27

Sustained crop returns D

igging a little deeper into the budget for grain fertiliser has valuable paybacks in terms of crop yields for maize and wheat, according to studies funded by Ballance Agri-Nutrients. Trials were undertaken in Canterbury, Southland and Waikato in spring 2012 to evaluate the performance of standard urea against Ballance Agri-Nutrient’s SustaiN, which is urea coated with the urease inhibitor Agrotain. Agrotain is a nitrogen stabiliser that has been proven to suppress ammonia volatilisation, delivering more nitrogen directly to the soil where it can contribute to plant growth.  The trials showed that the additional cost of $11 a hectare for SustaiN (applied at 100kg N/ ha) was readily recouped. While in one wheat trial SustaiN only produced slightly

more grain yield than urea, at the second site, SustaiN at around 100kg N/ha out-yielded urea at the same rate by more than half a tonne of grain per hectare. This highlights the risk of reduced nitrogen efficiency through ammonia volatilisation with urea.  At a grain price of $400/t, the extra 0.5t grain/ha would be worth an extra $200/ ha, making the additional $11/ ha for SustaiN a sound risk investment.  In the maize trial, at 100kg N/ha the $11/ha additional cost delivered an even higher increase in grain yield of 2.6t/ ha. At a maize grain price of $500/t, this would return $1300/ha more, easily recouping the added fertiliser cost. Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford, said the maize yields could have potentially

Trials are showing potential for improving wheat and maize yields.

been better given the trials took place during the drought, so lower than average grain yields were achieved. “This trial work carried out by independent researchers

supports our position that investing a little more is certainly worth the money, given the results of the trials.” Both the maize and wheat trials were set up with large

plot sizes (10m by 3m) and high replication (10 replicate plots for each treatment). This was done to ensure large areas were harvested with high replication, so as to minimise background crop yield variability, which can easily mask product performance benefits. In one Waikato maize trial, SustaiN applied at 100kg N/ ha achieved similar yields to both standard urea and SustaiN applied at 200kg N/ha.  This highlights the need to apply only the amount of nitrogen that is required to grow the crop, but at the same time ensuring that the nitrogen being applied is effective.  The Agrotain in SustaiN helps provide this assurance.    “These results clearly support previous work that SustaiN can outperform urea, as a result of reduced ammonia volatilisation losses,” Mr Stafford said. 

WE’LL SEE YOU RIGHT

Rural monthly publications

Ashburton

Dairy Focus August 2013

The Wright stuff Page 2

Pages 2&3

GUARDIAN

ASHBURTON

SEPTEMBER, 2013

Facts on flax

Dogs benefit from flaxseed oil P2-4

Have you got unwanted weeds or pests? ATS has a wide range of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides to ensure you get the best possible yield from your crop. Solvo® is a pre-emergent herbicide for the use against certain broadleaf and grass weeds in various crops. If you require technical support for your spring pasture or cropping requirements contact the ATS Arable Key Account Managers today on 0800 BUY ATS (289 287).

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92 Dobson Street, Ashburton Phone 307 0412 Hours: Mon - Fri 7am - 5.30pm; Sat 8am - 12noon


28

Things are looking up

N

ew Zealand farmer confidence has continued to edge higher, with the latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey showing more than half of the country’s farmers are looking forward to a “happy new year”. The final survey for 2013 showed a slight climb in confidence from the already high levels witnessed last quarter. The most significant improvement was among horticultural producers, encouraged by an increase in prices, which has been underpinned by strong global demand in key export markets. Confidence among dairy producers held steady, while beef and sheep farmer sentiment also remained at similar levels to the previous survey. Overall, only 5 per cent of New Zealand farmers had a

negative outlook on the year ahead, slightly less than the 6 per cent with that view in the previous survey, with 36 per cent expecting conditions to remain stable. Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Ben Russell said improving farm gate prices for most agricultural producers were the key contributors to continued high confidence levels. Commodity prices were identified as the primary driver of confidence by farmers in this survey. Of those New Zealand farmers with a positive outlook, 57 per cent cited commodity prices as reason for optimism (up from 44 per cent last survey). The state of overseas markets and economies was also cause for positivity, nominated by 37 per cent (up from 20 per cent previously). Interestingly, Mr Russell said, while overall confidence in the

Farmers studying the form at a flock ram fair at the Mayfield Tavern (from left) Hamish McCormick, Morry King, Barry Daly and John Greenslade.

rural economy had climbed, farmers’ expectations for the performance of their own individual businesses had softened. A total of 55 per cent of farmers still expected improved business performance in the next 12 months; however this was lower than the 57 per cent with that expectation in the previous survey. Mr Russell said this slight reduction had been driven by a drop off in the proportion of dairy farmers expecting improved business performance – from 72 per cent last survey to 62 per cent. “This likely reflects a view that

production conditions and pricing can’t get much better than they are currently, and so therefore will be similar or not as good in the coming 12 months,” he said. “This aligns with Rabobank’s view that we are likely to see some softening of record high dairy commodity prices over the next year.” Farmers’ investment intentions remained relatively stable, with a consistent 94 per cent of producers expecting to either increase or maintain the level of investment in their farm business this survey and last. New Zealand farmers’ assessment of their own

business viability had eased slightly, after a strengthening in this measure that had been witnessed in the previous survey. A total of 67 per cent considered their business viable or easily viable, down marginally from 68 per cent. Mr Russell said this easing in the viability index was most apparent among sheep and beef farmers, where six per cent had moved from easily viable/viable to the just viable category. “The gap in self-assessed viability between the dairy and sheep and beef sectors continues to be very large,” Mr Russell said.

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Ashburton Guardian Guardian farming January 2014