The grass will be greener on the AgResearch stand this year at Fieldays, as the organisation marks 20 years of working on the Fieldays theme of “The Changing Face of Farming”. AgResearch’s stand will showcase work its scientists are doing to enable farmers to cope with the changes they’re facing farming in 2012 and on.
AgResearch was established as a Crown Research Institute 20 years ago, but the first agricultural research in New Zealand started at the beginning of last century. In 1905, trials at Ruakura in the Waikato and Wallaceville, north of Wellington, demonstrated that ryegrass benefitted from phosphate fertiliser.
In 2012, AgResearch scientists continue to work with ryegrass, and it features prominently on the organisation’s stand at Fieldays.
“Continuing to improve our understanding of ryegrass and other forages is absolutely critical to AgResearch’s role of enhancing the value, productivity and profitability of New Zealand’s pastoral sector,” says Ag Research’s Research Director Professor Warren McNabb.
As well as highlighting achievements over the last 20 years, and current research on new forage mixes and also animal behaviour and welfare, another key feature of AgResearch’s Fieldays stand is the story of the “hidden half”.
AgReseach’s Science Team Leader - Germoplasm, Dr Jim Crush says the history of forage plant breeding has been based on above ground research. He says roots deliver nutrients to the plants, and AgResearch scientists are interested in improving nutrient efficiency.
“By doing so less is lost to waterways and it helps protect water quality. Deeper rooted plants have better access to subsoil moisture and better drought tolerance. This can also emphasise how the soil quality helps underpin the root structure, affecting nutrient analysis as well,” he says.
“The take home message is that roots are vitally important, but often not considered. If we are going to be developing totally sustainable pasture systems, we need an improved root function.
Also featuring on the stand is Farmax, a software tool used by sheep and beef as well as dairy industries. AgResearch scientists originally developed the technology and the organisation retains a share in the business. Farmers visiting the AgResearch stand will be able to take home a supply vs demand graph for grass growth over the year on their farm, and model the change in responses with a change of inputs (eg increasing/lowering stocking rate/supplements/fertiliser).