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Farming for the Future Research Programme – The results are clear

New Zealand is moving into an exciting new agricultural space that looks to improve the previous farming model – one that struggled under a cloud of environmental strains, extreme weather patterns, higher costs, higher energy use and a new, more product-savvy, global consumer. 
The Farming for the Future Research Programme is focused on finding ways to future-proof New Zealand's natural advantage by asking:
  • How can farming systems operate more ecologically efficiently and sustainably, with fewer/different inputs?
  • What input savings and environmental benefits can be gained while maintaining or increasing production?
  • How can we better understand the outcomes of lower nutrient input on sheep/beef farming systems and in particular those which utilise Hatuma DP?
Since 2009 the Farming for the Future Research Programme has been measuring the outcomes on participating lower-input hill country sheep/beef farms, most of whom have already been farming this idealism successfully for many years.

Each year, independent scientists and consultants from The AgriBusiness Group have undertaken the following:

  • Comprehensive soil and pasture quality assessments (including soil biology)
  • Annual farmers' interviews on farm physical attributes, management inputs, production and financial data captured and analysed
  • Gauging environmental outcomes using OVERSEER®
  • Comparison of farm outcomes against available local or national benchmarks as well as findings from the ARGOS project
  • Detailed reports written with considerable input from soil scientist Peter Carey (Land Research Services Ltd).
 

Acknowledgements:

  • The Farming for the Future Research Programme is supported by Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate (NZ) Ltd.
  • The Resilient Farming Alliance – A diverse group of like-minded individuals made up of farmers and representatives from industry, the scientific community and Hawke's Bay Regional Council, as well as former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams, and former Hawke's Bay Regional Council Chairman, Ross Bramwell, who was a recent recipient of a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to agriculture. The group oversees and guides the Farming for the Future Research Programme to ensure the programme is reaching its objectives.
  • The farmers involved who have graciously offered their properties as monitor farms.

 

                                  
      

The objective is to monitor the research properties as long as possible to build a robust set of data for assessing the performance of farm inputs such as fertilisers.

Even after five years of extensive monitoring preliminary results in the Farming for the Future Research Project suggested that, in comparison to Beef + Lamb monitor farms, sheep and beef farmers using Hatuma DP are applying half the amount of phosphate on their farms with no negative impact to their production. [1]

A summary of the latest 2013/14 results follow.

[1] Benge, J. & Lucock, D. (2014). Farming for the Future Research Project. 2009-2013 results.


Production:

Higher stocking rates

Overview of farms 2008/09 to 2013/14

Compared to regional averages, research project farms are larger than most and carry similar stock units per hectare.Compared to regional averages, research project farms are larger than most and carry similar stock units per hectare

production

* Farming For the Future (FFF)

No compromise on meat production

2009/10 to 2013/14 Meat production averages

Compared to regional averages, research project farms have similar meat production, with lower inputs. Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate monitor farms show no compromise on production.

Meat Production

* Farming for the Future (FFF) ^Average of North Island Beef + Lamb Class 3 + 4. † Net meat output: the difference between kg carcase meat imported and exported.


Fertiliser Inputs:

Better efficiencies

2008/09 to 2013/14 Average pasture fertiliser inputs

Non-renewable resources will become scarcer and more expensive.

Farmers who can find better efficiencies will be better placed for future growth.

Compared to regional averages, research project farms have:

  • Applied less than half typical regional phosphorus inputs
  • Applied less sulphur
  • Not applied significant amounts of nitrogen

Efficiences

* Farming for the Future (FFF) ^Average for Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Taranaki/Manawatu (Source: Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service, North Island Class 3 + 4)

Cost effective

Average fertiliser costs (including lime)

Compared to Beef + Lamb averages, Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate monitor farms on average spend less on fertiliser per stock unit and per hectare. That's cost effective for your pocket and better for the environment.

Cost effective

*Farming for the Future (FFF) ^Average of North Island Beef + Lamb Class 3 + 4.


Environmental Impacts

Low nutrient loss

Baseline results (2008/09 to 2012/13): OVERSEER®

Compared to national averages, research project farms have reported:

  • Nitrogen leaching within the average range
  • Nitrogen surpluses tending towards the low end
  • Phosphorus surpluses at the lowest end of the range  

Low phosphate surpluses mean less phosphate can potentially be locked up in the environment or lost to the environment.

Nutrient Loss

Benge, J. & Lucock, D. (2014). Farming for the Future Research Project. 2009-2014 results: The AgriBusiness Group