Friday, 5 October 2018
Ngāi Tahu Farming’s tactical approach to nitrogen
When it comes to nitrogen (N) use in their system, Ngāi Tahu Farming’s approach is tactical.
Their view is one of long-term sustainability – environmental guardianship of the land to ensure prosperity for generations to come.
On-farm inputs are carefully managed and monitored, as they are fully accountable to iwi on the performance and footprint of their farming operations.
As part of the suite of tools available to them for managing N loss, they use N-Protect, Ravensdown’s coated urea product. Not only do they get a better response from pastures, it adheres to the environmental mandate they operate under by ensuring a lower risk of N loss through volatilisation.
“For us it is about being strategic in your use of N, and about asking if you really need it,” says Shane Kelly, General Manager of Dairy.
We use N strategically to create our feed when it is both low-risk and low-impact, to help set ourselves back up. With N-Protect there is a better return - you end up using less product overall because your utilisation rate is better.
The use of N in Ngāi Tahu Farming’s 6,500ha dairy development Te Whenua Hou (the new lands) has been pivotal. The large-scale venture, which has seen pine forest converted into pasture, is now in its sixth year.
“There is a lot of carbon tied up in the soil, which is an issue coming out of forestry,” says Shane. “N gets those micro-organisms going and helps create a cycle.”
He says they have reduced their N use over time, and have stringent controls in place to ensure ground temperatures are optimum for spreading, reducing the chance of N leaching.
“We want to know we are doing good things for the environment,” says Shane. “Our whakataukī (mission statement) for Ngāi Tahu Farming is Toitū te Marae o Tāne, Toitū te Marae o Tangaroa, Toitū te iwi ‘when the land and water are sustained the people will prosper’. Mō tātou, ā, mo kā uri a muri ake nei ‘For us and our children after us’ - that underpins the very essence of the business.”