Friday, December 1, 2023

Seed firms, govt join forces to grow better pasture

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MPI commits $8.4m to climate-resilient pastures programme.
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A new Pasture Accelerator programme that aims to breed pasture to thrive in a changing climate has won backing from the government.

This new programme programme will focus on genomic technology that combines genetic information and physical information to speed up the traditional breeding process.

The government is contributing $8.4 million over seven years through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures). 

Barenbrug, Grasslands Innovation Limited (a joint venture of which PGG Wrightson Seeds is a major shareholder), and DairyNZ will contribute the balance in cash and kind. AgResearch is the key research partner.

Barenbrug and PGG Wrightson Seeds will implement the research findings.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said ryegrass will be bred to handle heat better and use nitrogen more efficiently, and there’ll be a focus on breeding higher yielding and more resilient clovers.

“This research will underpin greater returns for pastoral farmers with the improved yields estimated to increase revenue to farmers by around $1 billion by 2040,” he said.

With food and fibre export revenue forecast to grow to a record $62bn by 2027, it is important to ensure pastures and soils stay healthy into the future as people face a changing climate, O’Connor said.

The work builds on a successful Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment partnership programme called Pastoral Genomics, which demonstrated how effectively genomic selection could be applied to ryegrass.

O’Connor said it is encouraging to see two of the largest players in New Zealand’s seed industry collaborating on such an important issue.

“Climate change is forcing a change to ‘business as usual’, and the seed industry acknowledges the importance of working together to find solutions. This joined-up approach promises more chance of being able to help our farmers succeed in a warming world.”

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