Improving Farm Sustainability
Southern Pastures believes that sustainable pastoral farming should be a tool for mitigating climate change and farms with this long term objective in mind.
As part of its plans to improve the sustainability of its farms, Southern Pastures considers soil biology to be of key importance.
Southern Pastures has introduced and established healthy populations of beneficial species of Epigeic, Endogeic and Anecic earthworms on its South Waikato farms that were devoid of any earthworms.
The role of the earthworm is generally underestimated. By feeding on plant litter and dung, burrowing and casting, earthworms move organic matter into and through the soil thereby increasing the nutrients available to pasture and improving the soil structure resulting in higher available moisture and water infiltrations. A healthy population of earthworms also assists in keeping grass grub populations at bay and reduces incidence of facial eczema in cows.
Studies have shown that pasture production can increase materially as optimum earthworm populations are established.
Southern Pastures has worked with Landcare Research and Dung Beetle Innovations in funding the importation of dung beetles and the study of their beneficial effects on the environment. After a successfully trial on one of its South Waikato farms, Southern Pastures is now rolling the trial of the dung beetles out to some of its Canterbury farms.
Dung Beetles substantially improve pasture production and reduce farm run-offs with studies showing that it is even significantly more effective than riparian plantings. They also assist in sequestering soil carbon and reduce methane emissions thereby assisting in mitigating climate change.
Southern Pastures farms on the basis of protecting and enhancing soil carbon where possible.
Soil biology is one of the tools. Low tillage is another with long life pastures preferred.
Southern Pastures is also running a trial of miscanthus grass in conjunction with Lincoln University with some studies showing that its effects could be carbon negative on dairy farming. It also has a significant potential to mitigate nitrogen leaching.
Southern Pastures also undertakes substantial native plantings and retires land for re-generation and a 18.2 ha QEII reserve, named “The Rikard Kjorling Reserve”, has been created along with wetlands.
Southern Pastures is investigating with Massey University some novel concepts of deep soil carbon sequestration in Canterbury and if deemed feasible then this will be trialled.