New research on farms across New Zealand will measure and provide farmers tools to enhance soil health, including identifying where regenerative agriculture practices can make a difference.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today announced a unique partnership between food producers Synlait Milk and Danone, science provider AgResearch, and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. The project will study soil health on 10 farms in Waikato, Canterbury and Otago over five years, to determine the impacts of changes in soil health on production, farm resilience and the environment, including climate change.
Soils underpin New Zealand’s food and fibre sector and managing for healthy soils improves the natural capacity of soil to sustain plants, animals, and humans. However, assessment of soil health on farms is not routinely measured in New Zealand, and so practical tools are needed to help farmers understand the detailed state of the soils and how best to manage them. As well as on-farm production and performance, improved soil health is expected to benefit the wider environment with improved fresh water and nutrient outcomes, support for biodiversity, enhanced soil carbon storage and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Two paddocks on each of the 10 farms will be dedicated to a comparison between conventional practices and regenerative practices, focusing on greater pasture diversity and reduced nitrogen fertiliser use. The findings will help respond to a need for evidence that regenerative practices can make a positive difference in sustainable food production.