An East Coast farm is enjoying a dramatic increase in productivity, despite retiring 10% of the land – proving that farming sustainably doesn’t have to come at an economic cost.
Ballance says their belief comes as more farmers understand the direct benefits to their farms and their Overseer nutrient budgets.
Commenting on the release of Accord results on Wednesday, Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne said that while results had fallen short of targets for nutrient management data and the reporting back of nutrient efficiency information, good progress is being made.
The target is for all dairy farms to provide quality nutrient management data. Progress is currently sitting at 75%, up from 56% last year.
"It's a challenging area, as the results report acknowledges, with not all farmers able to provide the information required within deadlines. But we know from our own work that when farmers can make practical use of the information they get, they see real value in it."
Ballance had committed to the Accord and had invested significant resources in interpreting farm data into the nutrient efficiency performance reports made available to farmers.
"As a co-op, we understand we can add a lot of value to information if we work collaboratively which is why we partnered up with DairyNZ, Dairy Women's Network, Fonterra, Miraka, Synlait and Tatua last year to run a series of national workshops to help farmers come to grips with their nitrogen reports and give them practical advice on how to enhance their nutrient efficiency. We know from feedback that farmers gained a more positive view of the Accord and were keen on improving their reporting. We intend to keep running this programme as a way to lift the Accord results and ultimately water quality in New Zealand."
Since signing the Accord, Ballance had established a team of nutrient budgeting specialists to support farmers and Accord partners. It had met targets around certified nutrient advisers and had plans in place to increase the number of certified professionals.
Its $19.5 million Clearview Innovations Primary Growth Partnership programme with the Ministry for Primary Industries was also developing practical tools to manage nutrient loss risk.
"We've developed specific products to improve nitrogen and phosphorus efficiency and reduce losses to the environment. For example our MitAgator software ties in with Overseer to identify areas on farm that are at high risk of these losses and enables management strategies to be modelled, right down to part of a paddock.
"We've also developed a new system to interpret soil tests which is exclusive to us, and enables our people to predict nitrogen pasture responses so farmers know in advance what pasture and production gains they will get. This is all about using less fertiliser for better results so it's a win for farm budgets and the environment.
"It's practical tools like these, based on strong science which will be key to delivering the environmental gains the Accord wants to achieve," said Wynne.