The first step of a new farmer-led programme to better quantify nutrient loss from Waikato peat soils is underway with a long term goal to improve sustainable nutrient management in the region.
AgResearch’s Dr Gina Lucci says peat soils are notoriously difficult to manage because they have high organic matter content, low nutrient levels and water table fluctuations. As a result they behave differently from mineral soils in nutrient transformations and cycling.
Many dairy farmers in the Waikato are facing strict new rules around dairy effluent storage because the peat soils have been classified as having a high risk for effluent irrigation. Furthermore, their management is under the spotlight with the implementation of the National Freshwater Policy Statement.
Dr Lucci, heads the research project and says until now there’s been little research on peat soils in their natural state, and even less on those soils that have been farmed for 50 years or more and which could have changed in composition.