Boost for Wairoa farming project

SHADE AND SHELTER: Sheep enjoy the shade of Tagasaste trees on a steep hillside. Pictures supplied

REVOLUTION: The new seedling protector, which could revolutionise tree planting on farms.

THE WAIROA district has landed a $461,000 grant for a large hill country project and has attracted other funding to bring the total to just under $700,000.

The successful Sustainable Farming Fund application was announced in the latest round of funding by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Wairoa land management adviser Peter Manson said one of the largest projects was headed for Wairoa hill country.

The MPI grant of $461,000 has been approved over three years.

Other funding from Beef and Lamb NZ, HB Regional Council and Ballance Agri-Nutrients brings the grand total to $693,500.

Mr Manson, who with two agricultural scientists and Beef and Lamb NZ prepared the application, says the project is designed to develop a system for managing Tagasaste (commonly known as Tree Lucerne) on steep hill country.

“There is plenty of evidence that the tree is hardy, can hold soil on the hills and is a very high protein feed, but a simple management system that adds value to the farm has never been developed.”

Government policies to encourage communities to improve freshwater quality, reduce sediment and loss of productive soil are putting pressure on hill country farmers.

Until recently, landowners have had few options.

Erosion control

Pole planting is the most common method of achieving erosion control.

But a joint regional council, Ministry of Primary industries project based in Wairoa has developed other ways of establishing trees on grazed country. The two-year trial has designed and trialled a revolutionary seedling protector to protect seedlings from sheep and cattle.

It is affordable and simple to use.

Mr Manson said now farmers have the option to plant other species, including selected natives that are better suited to the harder sites, or to choose species which provide other benefits such as honey production or timber.

“Tagasaste fixes nitrogen in the soil and we have already measured an increase in soil organic matter (topsoil) under Tagasaste on a steep northerly face near Wairoa,” he said.

“On Doug Avery’s property near Blenheim, Tagasaste provides a food source for bumble bees which are essential for the pollination of his lucerne.

“Nick Broad is currently hosting a trial planting of Tagasaste and his view is that farm production must be maintained at least at its current level.

“Hopefully, we will do even better than that.”

Two systems are being monitored on Mr Broad’s property.

The first is wide spaced trees on pasture where the Tagasaste trees are allowed to grow to full height providing shade and shelter for livestock and improving the soil. The second system is where Tagasaste trees are managed as shrubs so that livestock can graze the foliage directly taking advantage of the high protein feed.

Mr Manson said other local participants include Dave Read, Luke Read and Pat O’Brien.

“Other familiar farming names supporting this project include Greg Hart, Doug Avery, and Mike Barton.

“The team includes Mark Harris from Beef and Lamb who will lead the extension work — getting the information out to farmers as it comes to hand and the science team made up of Grant Douglas who has had decades of experience with Tagasaste and Katherine Tozer from AgResearch who specialises in hill country pastures.”

This year, MPI is putting additional emphasis on innovation as an assessment criteria to focus on project applications that are using fresh and new approaches to solving problems, creating opportunities or exploring new methodologies to achieve desired outcomes.

Only 28 successful projects were announced for the 2018/19 round.

THE WAIROA district has landed a $461,000 grant for a large hill country project and has attracted other funding to bring the total to just under $700,000.

The successful Sustainable Farming Fund application was announced in the latest round of funding by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Wairoa land management adviser Peter Manson said one of the largest projects was headed for Wairoa hill country.

The MPI grant of $461,000 has been approved over three years.

Other funding from Beef and Lamb NZ, HB Regional Council and Ballance Agri-Nutrients brings the grand total to $693,500.

Mr Manson, who with two agricultural scientists and Beef and Lamb NZ prepared the application, says the project is designed to develop a system for managing Tagasaste (commonly known as Tree Lucerne) on steep hill country.

“There is plenty of evidence that the tree is hardy, can hold soil on the hills and is a very high protein feed, but a simple management system that adds value to the farm has never been developed.”

Government policies to encourage communities to improve freshwater quality, reduce sediment and loss of productive soil are putting pressure on hill country farmers.

Until recently, landowners have had few options.

Erosion control

Pole planting is the most common method of achieving erosion control.

But a joint regional council, Ministry of Primary industries project based in Wairoa has developed other ways of establishing trees on grazed country. The two-year trial has designed and trialled a revolutionary seedling protector to protect seedlings from sheep and cattle.

It is affordable and simple to use.

Mr Manson said now farmers have the option to plant other species, including selected natives that are better suited to the harder sites, or to choose species which provide other benefits such as honey production or timber.

“Tagasaste fixes nitrogen in the soil and we have already measured an increase in soil organic matter (topsoil) under Tagasaste on a steep northerly face near Wairoa,” he said.

“On Doug Avery’s property near Blenheim, Tagasaste provides a food source for bumble bees which are essential for the pollination of his lucerne.

“Nick Broad is currently hosting a trial planting of Tagasaste and his view is that farm production must be maintained at least at its current level.

“Hopefully, we will do even better than that.”

Two systems are being monitored on Mr Broad’s property.

The first is wide spaced trees on pasture where the Tagasaste trees are allowed to grow to full height providing shade and shelter for livestock and improving the soil. The second system is where Tagasaste trees are managed as shrubs so that livestock can graze the foliage directly taking advantage of the high protein feed.

Mr Manson said other local participants include Dave Read, Luke Read and Pat O’Brien.

“Other familiar farming names supporting this project include Greg Hart, Doug Avery, and Mike Barton.

“The team includes Mark Harris from Beef and Lamb who will lead the extension work — getting the information out to farmers as it comes to hand and the science team made up of Grant Douglas who has had decades of experience with Tagasaste and Katherine Tozer from AgResearch who specialises in hill country pastures.”

This year, MPI is putting additional emphasis on innovation as an assessment criteria to focus on project applications that are using fresh and new approaches to solving problems, creating opportunities or exploring new methodologies to achieve desired outcomes.

Only 28 successful projects were announced for the 2018/19 round.

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