Tuesday, 03 May 2022 07:55

Plantain can reduce N leaching

Written by  Staff Reporters
DairyNZ's Francesca Bennett with plantain. DairyNZ's Francesca Bennett with plantain.

Trials are showing that plantain has the potential to reduce nitrate leaching by more than 20%, says David Burger, DairyNZ general manager sustainable dairy.

He made the comments after visiting the Tararua Plantain Project last week with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

The project is a DairyNZ-led project working with partner organisations, local farmers and the local community to improve water quality.

It supports farmers in adopting plantain on their farms, testing the benefits in local pastures and sharing the lessons with other farmers. Project partners are DairyNZ, Agricom, MPI, Fonterra and Nestlé. Delivery partners include AgResearch, Horizons and Massey University.

Burger says plantain in pastures is showing great promise to improve waterways by reducing nitrate leaching.

"This project has community at its heart as it seeks environmental improvements," he says.

Burger says farmers involved in the project care about their local waterways and have improved their streams already through their own ongoing farm actions.

"It aims to ensure the dairy sector continues as an economic pillar within the local community. Plantain is a potential solution New Zealand wide."

The project has so far attracted 66 dairy farms in the Tararua District in Wairarapa.

It is likely more farms will adopt plantain this autumn (2022), though the numbers are yet to be confirmed.

Burger says these farmers are incorporating plantain on their farms and helping scientists assess the benefits and practice change needed.

"We aim to have 118 farms involve in this project. Monitoring programmes have been set up by DairyNZ on several participating Tararua dairy farms to measure plantain productivity and report on Tararua water quality.

"The Tararua Plantain Project builds on the findings of a DairyNZ-led cross-sector research programme, forages for reduced nitrate leaching.

"This programme showed plantain has the potential to reduce nitrate leaching by more than 20%."

Water Project

The Tararua Plantain Project water quality day was held last week at Norsewood.

DairyNZ says the day was about sharing dairy farmers' contribution to improving water quality and hearing from others including iwi on how the whole community can play a role.

Invitees include Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis, DairyNZ, Mavis Mullins (project chair and part of the local hapu), hapu representative Hone Morris, Horizons WQ scientist, Mike Patterson.

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