Tuesday, 6 November 2018

New specialist to focus on nutrient loss


Ravensdown has appointed Dr Martha Trodahl as Senior Technical Specialist focusing on software that will help farmers reduce their nutrient loss.

Martha has been working in the team at Victoria University to help develop the nitrogen and phosphorus tools in the Land Utilisation Capability Indicator (LUCI) modelling tool, that will better identify losses from critical source areas (CSA) on-farm.

Because of my work I’ve developed an interest in the agriculture sector and I can see the benefits of applying LUCI. I’m excited to be moving away from more of the academic work and into the practical applications and environmental benefits of LUCI.

Martha has been working with Victoria University in Wellington as part of the LUCI development team for seven years. She has considerable experience with the model and has spent three-and-a-half of those years completing her PhD based on the LUCI research.

It is a challenge to bring such a complex model from academia and on to farm.

“There’s a lot of testing that needs to be done in a variety of situations, for farms and locations that different Ravensdown customers have,” says Martha. “The science never stops and LUCI AG is continuing to be improved.”

One of the biggest hurdles for Martha’s work with the model has been a lack of data. “Having good spatial data is one constraint and having good actual nitrogen and phosphorus measurements is another. We could do with a lot more frequent and long-term terrestrial and instream measurements across a variety of locations.”

The model’s complex algorithms provide insights from a broad catchment level right down into the key details on-farm. Martha is excited to bring the tool to farmers as the spatial element allows a more precise and detailed targeting of hot-spots and CSAs.

“That’s the beauty of LUCI, Overseer can give us broad detail at the block scale, but with LUCI we can look into the block and find specific locations to target. This means that farmers don’t have to say ‘somewhere in this block something is happening so we better apply a remedy over the whole block.’ You can get more targeted and then putting your effort into a smaller area can be enough to remedy the issue.”