Tuesday, 07 June 2022 06:55

Farmers must adapt!

Written by  Peter Burke
MPI chief science advisor John Roche. MPI chief science advisor John Roche.

John Roche, chief science advisor at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), reckons despite all the local and international challenges facing the New Zealand farming sector, it has a lot of positives going for it.

He says NZ has a really strong and proud history of collaboration between farmers and scientists and that has served us extremely well. He conceds there are challenges around climate but thinks our innovation will see us through that.

Roche acknowledges the effects of climate change around the country, such as droughts in the Waikato and Southland and heavy rain on the east and west coasts of the country.

He says in the Waikato the soil is fertile and warm and with rain the landscape will look very different in a months' time. "I don't want to play that down it is a challenge. These episodic rainfall events do seem to be coming more frequently," he told Rural News.

"One swallow doesn't make a summer, but we have had more than one swallow in the last 12 months alone."

Roche says the country's farmers and orchardists will have to adapt. He explains this will involves looking at their system - specifically at those points at which the climate puts pressure on the operation - and then seeing how that can be managed. For some, that might mean de-intensification and for others it may mean having a feed supply available when they didn't in the past.

Roche says farmers worldwide are learning to adapt to similar situations and adjust their farming systems accordingly. He says farmers are smart enough to work out the best solution for their individual enterprises.

Roche says he's interacted with farmers a lot and believes they want to address environmental issues but they also want solutions.

He claims the recent budget announcement to spend $339 million to set up a new government-funded organisation in partnership with industry to fast track solutions that farmers can use to deal with climate change emissions is a great idea.

Roche says climate change is reall and claims that NZ's average rainfall has dropped by an average of 10% over the past 25 years, and in some areas - such as Northland - it's dropped by as much as 20%.

"Change is needed but as one farming leader told me, 'panic slowly'.

"This is not a time to run off and sell the dairy farm tomorrow," Roche told Rural News.

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