Friday, April 12, 2024

Building the mauri in the soil

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A project looking at whole farm systems and soil biology is underway on 10 farms in Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
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A project is underway throughout Waikato and Bay of Plenty that aims to build pathways to revitalise the environment, from soil to society.

Called Rere ki Uta, Rere ki Tai, it looks at whole farm systems and soil biology. It is funded for two years by Our Land and Water National Science Challenge as part of the Revitalise Te Taiao research programme and is hosted by AgriSea.

The project is in its second year, with 10 farms throughout the two regions participating.

In December, one of those farms held a field day at Matt and Shay Rout’s Morrinsville farm, where its results to date were shared to farmers.

The Routs became involved in the project after Matt started seeking alternatives to fertiliser when nitrogen prices spiked during the covid-19 pandemic.

He started looking at AgriSea’s products and purchased one of them to test on a paddock. This coincided with AgriSea looking for test farms for Rere ki Uta, Rere ki Tai, which he agreed to.

Matt says the involvement with the project has opened the door to a whole different mindset, “like diversity in pastures and looking at things in different ways”.

Matt and Shay have planted one area out into seed including plantain, chicory, red and white clover, tall fescue and others.

They have also had soil samples taken for testing, including carbon level testing, to see if the process adds carbon into the soil. They sent a sample off just before Christmas to get a baseline reading.

AgriSea’s Nick Collins says the project also looks at mindset, minerals, microbes, multispecies and management, bringing them together to build resilience financially and socially.

“Landscape function is not just about drought tolerance. It’s about flooding tolerance, it’s about wet tolerance as well,” he says.

Matt adds, “It’s about financial tolerance as well with the increasing volatility in milk prices.” 

The project is in its second year, and Nick wants to extend it if funding can be found.

He measures soil health by visual soil assessments – his spade and his eyes are his best tools to do that. 

The project seeks to build pathways to revitalise the environment.

It also puts these practices outside the organic way of farming, which does have a stigma attached to it, he says.

Researchers from Lincoln University, Manaaki Whenua, AgResearch, specialist social science research consultants Heather Collins Consulting, and farm consultants RECO, are part of on-farm teams that will assess the value of this approach in partnership with tangata whenua, farm advisers, and sector representatives.

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

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