DairyNZ FVI building to a world-class resource for farmers

DairyNZ in conjunction with the New Zealand Plant Breeding and Research Association have developed an online forage evaluation system to provide an estimated profit index, called the DairyNZ Forage Value Index (DairyNZ FVI).

Launched in 2012 the DairyNZ FVI provides a source of independent, economically-based information on ryegrass cultivar performance in New Zealand dairy systems for farmers and their advisers.

This guidance can be critical when farmers are considering pasture renewal. The system allows farmers to consider their own farm system conditions by matching that with appropriate cultivar options, greatly reducing the confusion around pasture cultivar data that existed in the past.

The whole New Zealand seed industry has contributed towards the FVI. Underpinning the system is a vast dataset made up of the New Zealand seed company trial work undertaken over the last 15 years (including a significant proportion of research undertaken by AgResearch on behalf of seed companies). DairyNZ has analysed this body of work and it is that data which has been fed in to the current version of the DairyNZ FVI.

The current DairyNZ FVI is the start of a system which better organises cultivar testing, however there are deficiencies in the system as much of the current information has limitations. A significant amount of new testing is underway to reinforce the DairyNZ FVI.

DairyNZ Principal Scientist and programme lead Dr David Chapman says that over the next five years the DairyNZ FVI system will build into a world-class resource.

“The FVI is currently akin to a ‘rising one-year-old’ but it will grow out to be one of the best cows in the herd once fully mature,” he says.

The DairyNZ FVI project team, which includes AgResearch, have determined that previous trials have not been fully optimised. They are based on single cultivars in monoculture; typically they were cut, not grazed, in small plots. The project team has determined that DairyNZ FVI data needs to reflect much more realistic conditions.  As a result the protocols for evaluation have been expanded by the seed companies, DairyNZ and AgResearch to assess more traits and incorporate more ‘real world’ conditions.

“Pastures are quite dynamic; they are impacted by not only grazing management and weather events but also population cycles of insect pests and weed outbreaks,” says AgResearch Science Impact Leader for Dairy Forage Production Dr Warren King.

“Providing these pastures are performing and managed well there is the potential for them to last almost indefinitely, so when farmers are undertaking pasture renewal they need to know that the seed they sow will be persistent for the long term.

“As the data we get from these new trials is incorporated in to the DairyNZ FVI farmer queries of the system will be much more meaningful on farm and be a better predictor of on-farm performance.”

AgResearch expertise has a critical role to play in these ongoing trials.

“AgResearch is providing the wider project team that measures and assesses many of the new research plots around the country,” says Dr King.

“Only AgResearch can provide the combination of expertise in endophytes and invertebrate pests as well as provide the science capability to establish and monitor research plots nationwide. That capability makes up a significant part of the broader project.”