Monday, 12 November 2018 12:33

Novel plumbing for Massey research farm

Written by 
Dr Lydia Cranston and Associate Professor Dave Horne examine the pipes. Ryan Willoughby, Massey University. Dr Lydia Cranston and Associate Professor Dave Horne examine the pipes. Ryan Willoughby, Massey University.

Massey University's sheep and beef research farm is to begin nutrient leaching research using underground water and nutrient collection.

Keebles Farm (287ha), near Massey’s Manawatū campus, now has water collection under each paddock to allow all water to be collected and studied.

Deputy head of the School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Paul Kenyon says the farm will be the first to use a collection system of this type for sheep and beef research in New Zealand.

The system allows simultaneous collection of soil water from each of the separate research plots. This allows the researchers to examine the effects of differing herbage types and/or stocking rates on leaching at the same time on the same type of soil and across the seasons and years.

The project is led by Dr Lydia Cranston, Associate Professor Dave Horne, James Milner and Dr James Hanly.

“We are continuing to progress our understanding of what goes on beneath the soil in farms,” says Cranston. “But like any good research project, you need the right tools to measure it accurately. We’ve known for some time that to measure nutrient loss and water runoff from paddocks is quite simple, but it costs a lot to install.”

A similar system has been used in Massey’s Number Four dairy farm for several years, most recently to evaluate the effectiveness of plantain to reduce nitrate leaching.

“We are excited to get out there and use it. Many of us are ready to test ideas we’ve long theorised.”

The trials will start in six months, including a PhD student supervised by Cranston on nutrient loss under intensive sheep grazing. 

Associate Professor Tommy Boland from University College Dublin is now at Massey to learn about what Massey is doing at Keebles, as a similar system is being installed at UCD.

The pilot study will compare nitrate leaching when sheep are grazing either a winter brassica forage crop, a plantain based mix, or a ryegrass/white clover mix. 

Animal performance including ewe liveweight and condition score, lamb weaning weight will also be monitored for understanding of the effect of each forage type on the overall farm system. The system’s high stocking rate will reflect an intensive sheep production system. 

“There is clear potential for our two groups to work together on this research,” Boland says.

“Being in two different hemispheres will allow for quicker progress in understanding the potential impacts across the various seasons because for example we will be able to investigate two winters in a 12 month period.”

In the future, the research site may be used to look at the effect of grazing management and other mitigation procedures on nitrate leaching and look at alternative water contaminants.

 

More like this

Early weaning useful for dry summer

Predictions of a dry summer may make early weaning an attractive option for sheep farmers this year, provided they have high-quality legume-based forages available for their weaned lambs.

Achieving target weights in hoggets

Veterinarians and farmers working together to improve stock performance must emphasise two aspects of hogget growth, say the authors of a guidebook published by Massey University Press.

Copper deficiency’s link to lameness

Every mating season, veterinarians are called to fresh calved heifers presenting with unexplained severe forelimb lameness. This could be down to copper deficiency. 

Millennials are the future of agri

Stand up and be counted millennials: that was the message from the winner of Massey University’s Agricultural Alumni Award, Bridget Hawkins, founder and chief executive of the agritech company Regen.

Tourism and agri not in harmony

A report by the ANZ bank says New Zealand is failing to take full advantage of promoting our quality food to tourists to this country.

 
 

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Fire sales?

Your canine crusader hears that Fonterra’s current financial woes could see the dairy co-op dumping many of its key assets.

Boring

This old mutt has been a long-time critic of the multi-national, tax-dodging, political activist group Greenpeace for its sustained and…

 
 

» Connect with Rural News