Biological farming systems research centre to help farmers

Press Release – Rotorua Lakes and Lands Trust

The announcement of NZ Biological Farming Systems Research Centre (BFS Research Centre) was received with enthusiasm and relief by all in attendance during the “first national conference on biological farming systems” that was held on 27-28 October …2 November 2011

Biological farming systems research centre to help farmers

The announcement of NZ Biological Farming Systems Research Centre (BFS Research Centre) was received with enthusiasm and relief by all in attendance during the “first national conference on biological farming systems” that was held on 27-28 October 2011 at Rotorua.

Scientists, farmers, and agriculture and horticulture industry representatives had come together to exchange ideas and experiences, at the conference themed “Towards Sustainable Farming – by farmers, for farmers”. Over 270 delegates attended the conference.

NZ Biological Farming Systems Research Centre is the trade name of the Rotorua Lakes and Land Trust (RLLT), a joint venture between Te Arawa Federation of Maori Authorities and Rotorua/Taupo Province of Federated Farmers. Future conferences will be held under the banner of BFS Research Centre.

There were a number of positive responses from farmers, companies dealing with biological fertiliser, researchers, and the general public following the announcement of NZ BFS Research Centre.

A number of farmers, including many Maori farmers, have come forward to allow their lands to be used for biological farming research. Nutrient supply companies have offered ‘seed’ money for the research.

“Both farmers and nutrient suppliers were enthused with the announcement and we could start new research in this area soon,” said Malcolm Short, Chairperson of the RLLT.

The conference organisers were overwhelmed by the tremendous response that they received. Over 270 delegates attended the conference, surpassing the original target of 200.

The credit goes to local and national media including farming magazines that played a key role in promoting this conference. National press releases days prior to the conference boosted interest in attendance even after the proceedings had begun.

In New Zealand, interest in biological farming is growing and it is important that opportunities are made available for delegates to share and learn.

Measuring the response received this year, we will have to look for a much larger venue in order to accommodate more delegates.

We expect more farmers to attend and benefit in the future, especially with the research centre playing a key role.

The conference was opened by Hon John Luxton, Chairman of DairyNZ.

“The presence of the Hon John Luxton and Dr Bruce Thorrold from Dairy NZ, and scientists from various crown research institutes definitely added value to the conference,” Dr Guna Magesan, conference coordinator.

Well known consultants among the farming community, Dr Doug Edmeades and Chris Garland raised interesting questions leading to discussions that will help the biological farming practices to grow and become increasingly mainstream.

Scientists from Massey University, Otago University, Scion, Plant and Food Research, AgResearch, and Industrial Research presented interesting papers that are of use to the biological farming community.

Alan Thatcher from Massey University compared nitrate leaching from organic and conventionally farmed dairy units. Dr Brent Clothier from Plant and Food Research presented papers on ecosystem services and recent research on soil carbon. Dr Alec Mackay presented a paper on soil biology focussing on earthworm diversity and abundance. Dr Doug Edmeades spoke on the importance of clover. Dr Marion Johnson from Otago University discussed how to incorporate the principles of Te Rongoa into farm management. Dr Chikumbo from Scion and Dr Chaturvedi from Industrial Research presented possible computer models that may help decision makers towards optimum decisions based on multiple criteria of farm profits and environmental benefits.

Presentations by practicing biological farmers and consultants aroused the greatest interest. They brought real life experiences of commercially managed biological farms to conventional farmers, consultants and scientists. This kind of experience provides a great impetus towards more research into biological farming systems as commercial yet environment friendly enterprises, catering to the growing market of high value food products.

The second day saw a session on “Biological farming – a way forward”. Alan Mayne explained the future of biological farming systems in NZ from a venture capital perspective. Tom Walters, co-director of Maori Research Institute, shared the Maori perspective and how biological farming practices align with Maori values about land.

The popular presentation by Tom Walters was concluded with an appropriate supportive waiata from Kaumatua Tai Eru.

Gifford McFadden thanked all attendees, sponsors, farmers, scientists, and the organizing staff. This was followed by a concluding karakia/prayer by Tai Eru, after which those who so desired joined in a bus trip to a research farm in Edgecumbe.

ENDS

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