Much of the work farmers have underway to improve water quality has the co-benefit of improving soil quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.
Dr Mackle is responding to the Ministry for the Environment’s Our Land 2018 report, which was released today and found soil degradation in New Zealand is the result of land use change, and in particular due to increased urban areas and agriculture.
"Our farmers rely on good quality soil for their businesses to be productive and profitable," says Dr Mackle. "We are working hard right now to address water quality, and much of this involves the way in which we care for our land and soil."
Healthy soil supports the productivity of agriculture, and filters water to help prevent waterways from becoming contaminated.
"No farmer wants to see their soil damaged, as it inevitably leads to a drop in productivity," says Dr Mackle. "We are seeing more and more farmers using mitigations like standoff pads and removing stock from the paddock at times when the soil is most vulnerable to compaction, and management of areas highly susceptible to erosion and sediment loss.
"We also know that good winter management, and targeted planting at specific times of the year, can all improve soil condition and therefore positively impact the levels of contaminants in our water.
"Many farmers across New Zealand have mitigations in place on their farms already, with great results for soil and water health as well as resulting in lower on-farm emissions. However we recognize that there is a need for this knowledge to transfer around the rural sector.
"We can’t talk about just one environmental issue in isolation," says Dr Mackle. "We are heavily focused on improving water quality and reducing the dairy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. This work will directly improve the health of our soil.
"In June this year we are running a series of farmer workshops around the regions about climate change. The discussion will cover stocking rates, feeds, fertiliser use, and planting opportunities, all of which effect soil and water health as well as on-farm emissions.
"Not all farms are alike, and each farmer needs to ensure they are running their farm in a way that is most suitable for their land and region.
"This report highlights the importance of the hard work the dairy sector is carrying out to improve its environmental footprint. We are an agricultural nation, but our success depends on balancing productivity and profit with sustainability. This report highlights where more work is required."