February 2019

Climate is what we expect – weather is what we get!
Whatever your views are on weather and politics, one would have to admit that both of these are somewhat challenging in today’s world.

As farmers and farm support people we are at the sharp end of the weather and it certainly is providing us with some issues in my local area of the Nelson Tasman District. Wildfires are not something that one would wish on anyone and they are very expensive in both economic and human resource terms.

Wildfires are at the extreme limit of what we can expect but it does bring to the front of our minds the need to protect our farms and incomes from unexpected weather events. We do the best we can with extra feed put away in good times and a crop just in case it gets too dry, too wet or too cold.

But what about the grasses and crops themselves? Are they hardy enough and are we getting the right sort of profile in so far as longevity and ability to withstand the tough times? It seems that we are always looking to get the maximum growth for the shortest period of time and perhaps that is not the best way to protect our livelihood in worsening weather conditions.

In adverse weather we need crops that are deep rooting and can draw moisture and nutrients from further down in the soil. Soil health is critical and building up those nutrients that sustain the plants are what we are about at Fertilizer New Zealand. A lot of emphasis needs to be put on replacing that which is in short supply, and soil tests in many cases are far too narrow in their focus and test for only a few basic nutrients. They do not take into consideration the nature of the soil or the natural components of the soil.

Carbon is the black stuff in our soil as every farmer knows and it is the black stuff that we like to build because that is at the heart of farming. The better the topsoil and the deeper it goes the better the land – this is the rule of thumb.

So, how come farmers do not get credit for sequestering carbon???

John Barnes
Managing Director