Friday, July 1, 2022

Trial farmer sold on spray

South Canterbury farmer Alvin Reid swears by econ-n fertiliser and hopes he will be able to spray it on his pastures again soon.

“It mightn’t be this year but I hope they can sort out an international code in the medium term,’’ Reid said.

The Winchester dairy farm was one of the trial properties for eco-n in 2003 and Reid has applied it every year since.

He’s disappointed the spray won’t be available this year but is pleased with the “pro-active’’ decisions by Ravensdown and competitor Ballance Agri-nutrients to take their DCD-based products off the market after DCD residue was found in milk powder.

He was annoyed at media claims the residues were a food safety risk and had been compared to the melamine-in-milk scare in China a few years ago.

“It’s just scaremongering. There’s no food safety risk and DCD is cleared in Europe for use in food processing and pharmaceuticals.

“The problem is there isn’t an international standard and when there’s no standard the default amount allowed is zero.’’

Reid is confident a standard will be agreed but is not sure how long the bureaucratic process will take.

He wants scientists to keep up their research, including possible biological solutions, to find a fungus or earthworm that would slow the bacteria process causing leaching.

It is believed the residue found in the milk powder would have come from recently sprayed pasture leaf, but Reid said there was a lot of soil ingestion by cows, especially from damp soil during the winter.

Eco-n has worked well on his heavy soil, with control tests by Ravensdown and Lincoln University backing up his own test results.

His tests showed pasture growth was boosted by 15% in the first eight-month period and the follow-up control test showed a 20% annual gain.

The growth boost has been measured to February after the late July-early August application, telling him the fertiliser is not being washed out of the soil.

The pasture growth effect was the initial attraction of eco-n, he said.

“The nitrate leaching issue was not the main reason then but it’s top of mind now.’’

On the heavy Winchester soil, leaching would be sideways rather than straight down. The farm has creeks running through it and Reid is confident they are well protected by the eco-n and having all riparian strips fenced off to keep stock out.

He’s not sure what the impact of missing a year or so of eco-n spraying will be.

“This will pull us back down a bit, but we’ll just have to find other tools to manage it the best we can.’’

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