January 2019

Sustainability of New Zealand farming
You must know the past to understand the future.
Past history gives the stories of drought, floods, crop failures and famine. In the past this was common. Communities relied on the local crops to provide them with food for the year ahead. A poor crop or worse still, no crop meant starvation.
It wasn’t until the 1900’s that we could tame nature and “guarantee” food production using a variety of chemicals and fertiliser. Some call this stage in history the green revolution. Land and fertiliser were cost effective. The cost of freighting food from one country to another was affordable. The higher yielding crops enabled us to almost triple the world’s production between 1950 and 1990; all this while the farm land providing this production grew by only 10%. During this period the world’s population doubled in numbers. This is all very good news because this meant that there was certainty surrounding the food supply.
However, from the 1990’s crop yields have essentially stopped rising as the world’s population continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace. The situation we now face is static growth of food for the population while the population continues to grow. We must find food for the equivalent of the population of India in the next fifty years, and nobody has a clue how to do that.
Our food reserves as of 2017 were estimated at 74 days, or put another way if there was a major climatic event that stopped food production, this planet would run out of food in just ten weeks.
Although that sounds really scary it has always been thus and I mention it merely to emphasise the importance of New Zealand’s number one export – agriculture – and in the same breath to highlight the importance of our very capable farmers and those who work our land. A diversity of different ecosystems throughout the world will hopefully ensure sustainable systems.

The sustainability of New Zealand’s farming systems are absolutely critical and any advances that we make in the future should bear this in mind. Doctors adhere to the belief that whatever they do they must first and foremost do no harm to a patient. This is not a bad rule of thumb for agriculture also.
We at Fertilizer New Zealand firmly believe this is true and we work extremely hard to ensure that our fertiliser programmes do not harm either the soil or the environment. We do the opposite in fact. We enhance the health of the soil and where needed we restore it to health after mistreatment. Our products do not leach nutrients into waterways or aquifers which is a major problem in our country and one that is still a long way from being remedied by the powers that be.
Our fertiliser plans are different insofar as they nurture the environment while still providing the nutrients needed to grow top tonnages of crops and superior grass growth for our livestock farmers. We do not believe that there is any one silver bullet to cure the problems faced by today’s farmers. Rather, the answer lies in a carefully worked out programme that supplies what the plant needs when it needs it. It is not just what one does but also how one does it that matters. Just throwing heaps of phosphate around like farmers used to do previously is not going to cut it any more. A carefully tailored scientific plan is essential nowadays and that is what we provide.
The driver of a 1960’s American V8 motorcar with horrendous high fuel requirements would never have believed that in 2018 we can get the same power out of an engine one third the size and using about one tenth of the fuel. But that is the fact of what the motor industry has done and we take it as the norm nowadays.
In terms of agricultural nutrient application that is precisely what New Zealand Fertilizer is aiming to do, and succeeding.

From John Barnes and the Team at Fertilizer New Zealand