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Lifting Marginal Land Research

Every year, hundreds of thousands of hectares of New Zealand hill country soil declines in fertility because farmers believe they can't afford to apply maintenance fertiliser. However, wise spending decisions can stop this negative trend and bring real benefits to your farm.

Estimates from Beef + Lamb suggest hill country farmers, who aren't running finishing operations, have around $50/ha to spend on fertiliser, including getting it on the ground. That budget doesn't allow for two separate aerial applications. Unless farmers know it's possible to spread phosphorus, sulphur and lime in a single application, quite often nothing is applied. Without regular fertiliser, soil fertility erodes. Over time, pasture production falls, and farmers have to reduce their stocking rates to cope with lower feed levels.

Losses in soil fertility on any farm are a concern, but hill country faces another issue: the growing need to pick up the production slack arising from easier country being converted to dairying. In the next seven years, an estimated 400,000 ha of sheep and beef land will become dairy. The remaining hill country will need to perform well in order to meet market demands.

There is a strong requirement for products to meet the basic soil fertility needs of hill country, with cost-effective application. The Hatuma DP range offers a solution. In one application, your soil receives phosphorus, sulphur and lime. This helps to maintain soil fertility, and supports farm productivity and profitability.

In 2009, Hatuma established the Farming for the Future research programme, with the assistance of scientists and consultants from The AgriBusiness Group. Twelve hill country farms are closely monitored to identify opportunities for improved efficiency. One goal is to reduce the costs and potential environmental impacts of fertiliser, while maintaining or increasing production.

Results to date show these farms spend an average of $7.40 per stock unit on Hatuma DP blends, with an average of 9.8 stock units per hectare. It's relatively early days for a long-term trial, but these are encouraging results.

Over the years, many other farmers with lower spend budgets have realised the advantages of using Hatuma DP blends. At less than $50 per hectare, these farmers are able to fertilise their land every year, because it is affordable. They see improved health and vigour of clover, and a more even grazing pattern.

Hatuma DP is committed to providing the best advice to the agricultural community. In 2014, Hatuma began a long-term monitoring project on a Central North Island property that hasn't seen fertiliser for many years due to financial constraints. Different application rates, based on varying $/ha, will be applied on adjacent areas. Extensive soil, herbage and production monitoring will build a strong picture of what production gains are possible at minimum cost.