Monday, 07 November 2016 12:44

Productivity gains and environmental answers relayed

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Lincoln University Professor Derrick Moot with the Ray Brougham Trophy. Lincoln University Professor Derrick Moot with the Ray Brougham Trophy.

The New Zealand Grassland Association’s 78th annual conference last week was packed with papers promising productivity gains and environmental solutions for pastoral farmers.

The conference, held Wednesday-Friday [Nov 2-4] in Timaru, attracted just over 300 delegates from across the country including many leading scientists.

Papers presented covered everything from fescue to fodder beet and lupins to lucerne.

Association president David Stevens, AgResearch, says was a great event with some ground-breaking science presented and fantastic farm-visit field days.

Those field days included two robotic dairy farms and a dryland finishing property on the first day of the conference, followed by a cutting edge dryland sheep and beef property and an irrigated finishing farm on day two.

The field days helped scientists see previous research being put into practice, and hear what challenges local farmers face that might require future research. Meanwhile the morning sessions relayed the latest findings.

“What we are here for is science, and that’s what we endorse,” says Stevens in his closing comments to the conference.

“The association does not endorse products; it does not endorse processes and it does not endorse cultivars. We are here for debate, and we welcome that.”

With an increasing amount of pastoral research being conducted by, or at least controlled by, commercial companies, Stevens encouraged them to submit their work to the independent peer-review process the NZGA provided. If it proved scientifically sound, it would make it into the conference programme and associated journal.

“I think it’s a really important part of our future… A lot of the pastoral sector’s science is now conducted outside of our formal institutions and we really do welcome our industry partners putting that science up here at the conference.”

At the conference dinner, the association’s sister body, the New Zealand Grassland Trust, made four awards, the top accolade going to Lincoln University Professor Derrick Moot who received the Ray Brougham Trophy.

Moot had been instrumental in the economic, social, and environmental transformation of pastoral farms in the dry east thanks to his outstanding research and communication skills, said Grasslanz’ John Caradus.

Farmer awards were received by dairy farmers Alvin and Judith Reid, whose robotic dairy farm at Pleasant Point was among the field day stops, and sheep and beef farmers Warren and Andrea Leslie.

Former farm consultant, now Irrigation New Zealand chair, Nicky Hyslop landed the trust’s regional award.

“It would be fair to say her influence has helped many farms in the region raise their productivity substantially over a period of nearly two decades,” says Caradus.

The conference closed with an invite to the 2017 event which would be in Whanganui, November 7-9.

All papers from this year’s conference are posted on www.grassland.org.nz under proceedings.

 

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