The projectknown as ‘Protecting our Groundwater – Measuring and Managing Diffuse Nutrient Losses from Cropping Systems’has been recognised by the Ministry for the Environment for funding through the Freshwater Improvement Fund.
The project is one of two newly announced projects with a national focus. Diana Mathers, Foundation for Arable Research’s environmental research manager, says the project has a strong focus on farmer engagement and will deliver long-term, robust information about nutrient losses from cropping systems from a network of fluxmeters in five regions.
“This information will provide farmers and scientists with evidence to drive on-farm management changes and to improve farm system models used for predicting losses. The value of this information will increase over time as more data is collected.”
The project partners include; FAR, HortNZ, Ravensdown, five regional councils and Plant & Food Research. The total value of the programme is $1,040,168, with MfE contributing $485,168 and the balance coming from the industry and regional council partners.
The programme of work has five objectives:
• A unique data set for cropping farms: Collection of a scientifically robust set of data measuring diffuse nutrient losses from the cropping rotations in the fluxmeter network, established in 2014.
• Good management practices for cropping farmers: Promoting industry-agreed good management practices to cropping farmers and the wider industry through community engagement.
• Soil quality monitoring: Developing soil monitoring programmes to assess quality and the risk of losses from cropping farms.
• Informing and improving the functionality of OVERSEER for cropping systems
• Engagement with Maori farmers and iwi in the vulnerable catchments
“This is an important project for FAR and HortNZ. Our commitment to our farmers is to support sustainable, profitable businesses producing quality products while practicing good environmental stewardship. “
Broad-acre arable and horticultural cropping covers more than a quarter of a million hectares of New Zealand’s best productive soils. The crops grown range from fresh and processed vegetables, grains for human and animal consumption, forages and specialty vegetable and pasture seed crops.
In 2014 an MPI SFF project, Rootzone Reality’, funded by multiple stakeholders, established a network of drainage fluxmeters on arable and vegetable farms. Data collected from the network is providing insights into diffuse nutrient losses from cropping systems and the interactions between seasonal effects, soils and farm management practices.
Having this information provides weight to discussions with farmers about good management practices. The MfE programme of work will enable this project to be extended and for data to be collected from a full cycle of the rotation and across a range of seasons.
A technical team from Plant & Food Research is managing the data collection and analysis from the individual sites.