Thursday, 11 July 2019 08:55

Forage herb to reduce leaching

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Mark Brown, Ecotain (left) with Norwood CEO, Tim Myers. Mark Brown, Ecotain (left) with Norwood CEO, Tim Myers.

The New Zealand seed company Agricom last week won a major national prize for its Ecotain environmental plantain.

This was the Primary Industries New Zealand, Innovation and Collaboration Award. The plant also won second place in the Primary Industries Science and Research Award contest.

The company’s sales and marketing manager, Mark Brown, applauded the recognition of the collaboration in developing Ecotain, a forage herb able to reduce nitrogen leaching on livestock farms by up to 89%. 

Agricom says its discovered specific lines of plantain (a common roadside weed) which reduced nitrogen leaching from the urine patch of cattle. 

After ten years of R&D, with funding from Callaghan Innovation, the company set up the Greener Pastures Project, joining its expertise to that of Massey and Lincoln universities and NZ Plant & Food Research to support the results scientifically.

“We acknowledge Plant & Food Research and Massey and Lincoln universities,” said Brown. “NZ has at least 6.5 million dairy cows, so managing nitrogen leaching and the flow-on effect on waterways is a big challenge.”

Ecotain enables farmers to reduce nitrogen leaching while maintaining productivity, he said. “It allows them to simply make a change to the composition of their pastures.”

To help farmers to prepare farm environmental plans, Agricom intends to get Ecotain recognised in the Overseer farm nutrient measuring tool.

The plant can be used in a pasture as a special purpose crop with clover, or in a grass/ clover/Ecotain mixed pasture system. It can also be oversown into existing pasture. 

Including 20% to 30% Ecotain in a pasture can reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 74%, Agricom says. Pastures containing 42% Ecotain are said to have shown leaching reductions of 89%.

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