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Initial results positive in Maori farming study

Preliminary results from a project to study biological farming systems are promising.

The Rotorua Lakes and Land Trust (RLLT) – a joint venture between Te Arawa Federation of Maori Authorities and Rotorua/Taupo Province of Federated Farmers – has been studying nitrate leaching under biological farming systems since August 2010 in Reporoa with the research support coming from crown research institute Scion. The preliminary results are promising.

“We don’t want to draw any conclusions from these preliminary results as this is in the early days of research but results are definitely encouraging,” said Gifford McFadden, a Trustee of RLLT and the Project Leader for Vallance Project.

At this stage, we are monitoring only two farms (one conventional and one biological) in Reporoa. Following these promising results, we have now set up similar research in two farms in Edgecumbe. We will be monitoring Edgecumbe farms from April. Ideally we need, and would like to monitor, a number of study sites to draw proper conclusions.

Please note that these results are only from the tail-end of the drainage season when nitrate concentrations are expected to be low in the drainage water.

“Even in this situation, there is a significant difference between nitrate concentrations between these two farms,” said Gifford McFadden.

We look forward to the results during the main drainage season (from late autumn to early spring) when most of the nitrogen leaching occurs.

“Since the amounts of drainage could differ between years due to amount and timing of rainfall), it will be ideal to monitor leaching losses at least for 3 years,” he added.

In recent years, water quality has become an important issue in many countries including New Zealand. Farmers are under sustained public pressure to reduce nutrient leaching from their farms to streams, rivers and lakes.

New Zealand farming needs solutions that are simple to implement and easy to monitor.

Vallance Project (biological farming research project) explores how biological farming can play a role in reducing nitrate leaching from farms. This research is being carried out for the benefits of New Zealand farming community.

Total estimated cost for the project is $400,000 over 3 years. We have approached various funding agencies requesting support this research, and we will meet them again with these preliminary results.  Already AGMARDT has committed $138,000, Bay of Plenty Regional Council $20,000 and a private company has put up $20,000.

“We hope these results may help some funding agencies to come forward to support this research at least for one or two drainage seasons,” said Mr McFadden.

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