According to DairyNZ Head of Strategy and Investments, Bruce Thorrold, it is essential to have good science behind the philosophy of regenerative agriculture.
His comments follow the government’s recent announcement to spend $26 million on an in-depth study of the sustainability of New Zealand’s agricultural sector and to determine what regenerative agriculture might look like in a New Zealand context.
Thorrold says regenerative farming is for him a philosophy of farming and a way that will make it better in the future than it is today. He says it relates to a whole range of parameters such as people, animals, the environment and the quality of the food we produce.
“It’s underpinned by what I would call a ‘social movement’ and a set of practices that lead to better things. I think most of the debate is about the practices and the science behind them and about practices that actually make things better,” he said. said.
Thorrold says that in terms of dairy, one of the issues we’re focusing on is what’s called hyper-diverse pasture and there’s some debate about defining that. He says the common thinking among regenerative agriculture practitioners is to plant more than ten grass species and see how these change over time, as opposed to planting plantain and ryegrass clover. , which he says some people would consider a diverse pasture.
“Let’s face it, everyone wants to be better and farmers rightly believe that many of the things they do now as standard farming practices are, in other parts of the world, considered regenerative agriculture from point. regenerative philosophy, farmers, policy makers and others will have the scientific evidence to support good decision making,” he says.
Thorrold says regeneration practices not only vary from country to country, but also from farm to farm. He says, for example, that the practices of a cattle and deer farmer in Hawke’s Bay will differ significantly from those of a dairy farmer in Southland.
“One of the things that farmers really appreciate about regenerative agriculture is that it’s not deeply prescriptive. You change and adapt in a way that suits the variability of your farming situation, unlike a organic farmer facing a drought.
“They may have a problem because they have a restrictive set of practices that they are allowed to do to deal with this drought. Farmers like regenerative agriculture because it gives them flexibility,” he says. .
DairyNZ has not promoted it, but is an integral part of the overall project and has invested in it alongside MPI and the Taranaki Dairy Trust.
He says that apart from this project, a lot of other research is being done on best farming practices. It highlights work on winter grazing, animal care, plantain, and farming systems that reduce nitrogen loss and the environmental footprint of dairy products.