Friday, December 8, 2023

$4.7m boost for vegetable grower project

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New Zealand vegetable growers have secured a $4.7 million cash injection from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for a nationwide project set to transition crop production to more sustainable land management.
Potatoes NZ chair Stuart Wright says there was a significant increase in levy money dedicated to R&D under Chris Claridge, pictured.
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Chris Claridge | September 09, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

The multi-stream project is designed to protect industries’ ability to grow, process and export products while meeting environmental standards and maintaining international competitiveness.

The funding adds to the $2.8m already invested by industry into Sustainable Vegetable Systems (SVS), a four-year project focused on improving crop nutrient management for the growing of potatoes, onions, brassicas, butternut squash, carrots and leafy greens.

MPI is investing in the project from the Productive and Sustainable Land Use package, which promotes farming and growing practices that deliver more value and improved environmental outcomes.

The project was established by Potatoes NZ, partnering with Horticulture NZ and vegetable groups Onions NZ, Vegetables NZ, Processed Vegetables NZ and NZ Buttercup Squash, under their umbrella of the Vegetable Research and Innovation (VR&I) Board.

“This project will give growers the ability to accurately manage nutrient flows, while meeting demand for quality produce, meaning better environmental outcomes,” Potatoes NZ chief executive Chris Claridge said.

MPI Director for land, water and climate policy Charlotte Denny says having robust tools to measure their environmental impact will help growers operate more efficiently and reduce nitrate leaching.

“This is an important industry-led programme and the scientific data gathered will inform and help develop decision tools for growers to support more sustainable growing practices,” Denny said.

Plant and Food Research is undertaking the work to quantify and model nitrate leaching. 

The project will engage with vegetable growers around NZ, providing tools to help them apply effective nitrate management techniques suited to their land and operations.

The SVS project will have nine commercial field sites across the country in Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay, Horowhenua, Waikato and Pukekohe, as well as trials at Plant and Food Research facilities in Lincoln and Hawke’s Bay.

Claridge said the SVS project will give the vegetable growing sector improved tools to estimate nitrate leaching, an area the sector is currently underserved.

“This project will enable growers to assess which management techniques will best reduce their risk of nitrate leaching so they can confidently make changes in practice,” Claridge said.

VR&I chair David Hadfield says the vegetable product groups it represents strongly advocate for science that supports vegetable growers to build on their current knowledge and improve their monitoring and management of nitrate leaching.

“This work will underpin the ability of vegetable growers to keep producing fresh healthy vegetables using the most sustainable approaches,” Hadfield said.

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