November 2018

Land Loss

In New Zealand 192 million tonnes of soil are lost every year to erosion and amazingly 44% of this loss is from pastureland. That is a scary figure and one we cannot overlook.

Last week the future King of England was asked what he wished for on his 70th birthday. Prince Charles answered…. “My biggest wish is that we would begin to care for our land much better than we are doing at present”.

My business and yours as farmers is built on caring for our land and in doing so ensuring that it is passed on to our next generation in better condition than we found it. We will all vow that we are doing our very best and swear on the good book that we are caring for our land. But are we?? Yes, we are doing what our scientists and best industry practice advise us to do but the figures say that is not the whole story. Soil quality testing has shown that two out of seven indicators give reason for concern with 48% of tested sites being outside the target range for phosphorus and porosity.

I have maintained for many years that we need to do some things very differently when caring for our soils and I have challenged the everyday wisdom of more superphosphate and bagged nitrogen. Lots of these products are going straight through our soils and into our waterways with a consequent loss of millions of dollars out of your pocket.

Soil erosion is a huge issue and with the increase in extreme weather events we are going to have to farm for much more than just grass or crops. We are going to need our plant root structures to go down further and we are going to need to take the pressure off erosion-prone land. This recent report that I am quoting from tells us what we all know, which is land for dairying is up 42% and sheep and cattle land area is down 20%. We also know that cattle beasts are harder on the land than sheep and that dairying is the hardest of all.

That being the case we need to tailor our fertiliser programme to our land and remember that there are no silver bullets and all programmes need to look at how nutrients are applied, when and how much and what type of mix. Maybe a little less pressure on man, beast and land could help too.

Fertilizer New Zealand can help with environmental issues, so give us a call.

From John Barnes and the Team at Fertilizer New Zealand