|Beneath the surface
with David Law
The world as we know it has been turned upside down in the last few months.
But through it all farmers have felt as though they have been largely untouched by the implications of COVID-19. Time will tell how well markets and the balance of supply and demand stacks up and treats New Zealand agriculture.
Farmers are accustomed to working in relative solitude. Their work is their home and their home is their work, and they don’t wander into town each day for a coffee or nip out on their lunch break for a sandwich.
Farming is an essential service, with business running as usual. Fertiliser is still being spread, milk is still being collected and processed, and meat companies are still operating.
But farmers are being affected; or rather, they will be, because despite the distraction of COVID-19, the discussion around water pollution will eventually reappear on the horizon.
Regional councils already require farmers to operate within strict nitrogen leaching limits and environmental compliance programmes, and limits will only become tighter in future.
So now is the time to start the journey to a better way of farming before non-compliance has drastic financial implications.
Shining a light
The Total Replacement Therapy team is shining a light on the system that will mitigate environmental issues without causing financial hardship to farmers.
It aims to: Meet the environmental standards of the Government and the consumer; increase farmers’ integrity by exceeding government expectations; and help farmers remain profitable while achieving that integrity.
Our team is doing this by regenerating NZ’s soils cost-efficiently and quickly, introducing biology and enhancing their activity, and reducing farmers’ reliance on synthetic nitrogen, therefore reducing water pollution.
And it’s working. Six months after implementing the Total Replacement Therapy programme on his Whakatane dairy farm, Alan Law has achieved increased pasture cover while reducing his synthetic nitrogen use by 55 per cent – from 180 units/ha to 80 units/ha – in a drought.
And that’s just the beginning. He’s expecting to be able to reduce nitrogen application to 30-50 units/ha/year – which we believe would be acceptable by any authority – while maintaining profitable production.
Exceeding expectations possible
Now is the not the time to sit on our laurels and hope the environmental discussion will go away. Exceeding expectations set out by regional council and government is possible, and not just by cutting cattle numbers and losing production in the process.
Our team is helping farmers make this journey before it is required of them.
We can’t predict what will happen in the future, but wouldn’t it be nice to see farmers who are exceeding high environmental standards rewarded with exemption from any potential levies or penalties that may be implemented in the future?