Government funding for a nationwide project to better protect waterways, by measuring and managing nitrogen on cropping farms, has been welcomed by Horticulture New Zealand.
Today Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced funding of $485,168 from the Freshwater Improvement Fund for a three-year project: Protecting our Groundwater – Measuring and Managing Diffuse Nutrient losses from Cropping Systems.
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says food consumers world-wide are increasingly wanting information about the environmental impacts of the food supply chain, particularly when it comes to healthy food such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Environmental sustainability is paramount as it relates to freshwater and the horticulture and cropping industries are very aware of this,” Chapman says. “So it is important to have funding to apply science and research to ensuring the best management practices for our growers to this end.
“This project, throughout New Zealand’s key cropping areas, gives us really useful information to target on-farm management practices to meet environmental impact expectations. Ultimately, we are looking to give growers the tools to manage and reduce their environmental footprint and long-term, robust data and science will allow us to do that.
“For arable and vegetable cropping, we are looking to minimise nutrient leaching and sediment run-off – preventing it from entering waterways.
“The aim of the project is to improve groundwater quality to contribute to the overall improvement of the management of New Zealand’s freshwater bodies,” Chapman says.
The project accesses a network on arable and vegetable farms to measure nutrient losses and collect information about the crop rotation and farm’s management practices. This detailed, unique dataset will have increasing value for farmers and scientists over time, providing evidence to drive management changes on the farm and improve environmental outcomes.
It is managed by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) with funding from Vegetable Research and Innovation (V R & I), industry and regional councils, and the project cost is estimated at a total of $1,040,168. Horticulture New Zealand is part of the project team.