April 2019

We all like a Varied Diet

We all like a varied diet and this includes animals. Researchers are now finding that plantain in pastures helps reduce nitrate leaching, and work in Europe shows that it will reduce methane emissions as well.

None of this comes as a surprise to me as I have advocated for years that we should have more diversity in our swards and that there are many more options to overcoming nutrient loss than recent blinkered thinking has led farmers to believe.

Change is long overdue, and a single programme of more bagged nitrogen and more superphosphate producing yet more single species pastures in greater quantities is now being shown to be both harmful and outdated.

Just like us, animals know what is good for them, and if given some sensible choices in the pastures they will go for it as it is very palatable.  One Australian researcher described plantain as lollies for cows which is a bit ridiculous, but the fact is that a variation in their diet is a good thing on many levels.

But there is more to growing pasture than just the species planted; it is also how they are fed.  That is where Fertilizer New Zealand fits in.  Plants grow best when they have a diet that meets their requirements.  It’s the goldilocks effect – not too little and not too much.  This means the correct amount of NPKS and a whole host of other elements, plus microbes and fungi, which is the soil life.  It will also depend on how vigorous the root system is.  The stronger the root system, the more energy the plant will have to grow and become productive.

As we travel this new and exciting path of looking for more options to help make agriculture meet the requirements of new legislation and even more that is proposed, I am sure that we will revisit some old truths that our forefathers held dear and we have wrongly discarded.

We have found that happy healthy livestock makes for a happy farmer.

John Barnes
Managing Director
Fertilizer New Zealand