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Operating Sustainably And Profitably Under A Nitrogen Cap

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Operating Sustainably And Profitably Under A Nitrogen Cap

Meat & Wool New Zealand's latest Monitor Farm programme focuses not only on production and profit, but also on the environmental impact of farming on Lake Taupo.

The newly formed Taupo Monitor Farm Programme aims to find out how landowners can farm within nitrogen restrictions while still operating sustainable businesses.

One of the programme's goals is to ensure that farming in the Lake Taupo catchment area remains viable under Environment Waikato's Variation 5 regulations. The regulations aim to return Lake Taupo's water quality to 2001 levels by 2080 by limiting the amount of nitrogen entering the lake as a consequence of human-generated activities.

"The focus here is on the triple bottom line approach to farming," says co-facilitator Darren McNae, who along with Peter Livingston, also from AgFirst Rotorua, will lead the programme's first on-farm meeting this month.

"Farming in the Taupo catchment provides significant benefits to the local community and it is in everyone's interest for farming to remain a viable land use," says Mr McNae.

"Providing a financially, environmentally and socially suitable farming system for the Lake Taupo catchment will enable farmers to operate sustainably and profitably under a nitrogen cap."

Meat & Wool New Zealand, General Manager Farm Services, Richard Wakelin says the Taupo programme has a long-term focus, beyond the usual three-year timeframe for a Monitor Farm.

"While Variation 5 regulations are necessary to arrest damage to Lake Taupo, there is no 'quick fix' to help farmers comply. The regulations pose a significant dilemma for sheep and beef farmers," he says.

The Taupo Monitor Farm programme involves two properties: Rangiatea Station, a 1593 hectare Maori Incorporation, and Alex and Anne Richardson's 290 hectare farm.

The programme has four key areas: identifying knowledge and knowledge gaps, conducting farm systems analysis, providing data for assessing catchment level implications, and education.

"The key aspect initially is to get a greater understanding of what these two operations are all about and the impacts of the current situation on their future viability under a status quo scenario," says Mr McNae.

The focus will be on providing objective information on the implications of the nitrogen cap on the business of farming in the catchment.

The programme will then look to provide farmers with options and tools for their farming systems by analysing all potential land use and business alternatives.

"A key component is background research to ensure that the programme is not 're-inventing the wheel'. We will look to utilise all previous research dealing with issues relating to the nitrogen cap," says Mr Wakelin.

The programme will convey information to farmers in the Taupo catchment area by holding four on-farm knowledge transfer days each year and demonstrating the practicality of suggested changes through the two case study farms.

Stakeholders will also receive regular updates about the programme's findings and the actions farmers are taking.

The first on-farm day will be held at the Richardson property on 19 February.

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