Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Regenerative farming field day draws healthy crowd

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Massey University’s Whenua Haumanu programme sparks keen national interest.
Massey University staff, scientists, and students attending the Whenua haumanu on-farm field day.
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Strong local and national interest in regenerative farming has seen Massey University draw its biggest turnout to an on-farm field day in 20 years.

The event, held late last month, attracted about 200 people and showcased Massey University’s Whenua Haumanu programme on the effects of contemporary and regenerative pastoral practices – a partnership between Massey University and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

The seven-year project brings together universities, Crown Research Institutes and industry partners to assess the suitability and relevance of regenerative agriculture in New Zealand.

Programme and research lead Professor Danny Donaghy said everyone who is anyone in the NZ pastoral industry is involved “and if they are not currently, we welcome them to become involved”.

Professor Donaghy explaining the various pasture measurements being collected.

Whenua Haumanu measures multiple aspects throughout the farm system, exploring how different pasture mixes and management practices impact soil biology, pasture growth, animal production, quality of milk, meat and wool products, nutrient leaching, emissions, and carbon capture and storage.

Those at the field day spent time on Massey University sheep and dairy farms learning about contemporary and regenerative farming practices across both standard and diverse pastures on several research sites. 

They were shown how Massey scientists are measuring what is happening below ground, including root activity of pasture plants, the structure and chemistry of the soil, and the flow of nutrients over and through the soil. Above ground the researchers are studying the dynamics of the pasture mixes, greenhouse gases and the interactions with animals and animal products.

“Pastures with a diverse mix of plants and farming practices that nurture the soil are key to regenerative agriculture. Above and below ground, exploring how this works, and why, is the focus of the research,” Donaghy said.

Dairy research lead Dr Nick Sneddon explained how differences in the taste of milk were being investigated along with cow reproductive performance, milk production and animal wellbeing.

Massey’s Pasture and Crop Research Unit.

After 18 months, all the farms are “really humming”, according to the sheep research lead, Dr Lydia Cranston, who is confident they are achieving great results through regenerative and contemporary management across the farms.

Donaghy was pleased with the turnout and the collaboration from different industry partners.

“This is the biggest farm event we have had in 20 years. It is great to see people from other universities, research institutes, industry partners and some international guests attend and take an interest in the Whenua Haumanu programme.”

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