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Reducing the GHG footprint of farming: demonstrating the impacts of steps available now

A core part of the NZAGRC's research programme is to develop new tools, technologies and practices to mitigate agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, there are a number of steps that farmers can take right now to reduce their environmental footprint. The main goal of the recently re-contracted NZAGRC Integrated Farm Systems programme is to demonstrate to New Zealand farmers exactly what the impacts of using the existing mitigation tools are on typical NZ farms emissions.

Dr Robyn Dynes, Principal Investigator (AgResearch), explains. "Whilst it's technically valuable to model the potential effects of changing one farming practice in isolation on GHG emissions, in practice there are many factors that can contribute to the total GHGs being emitted from a particular farm. In order to work out the best possible advice to give to our farmers about how to farm for low GHGs, we need to make real changes on real farms and measure what happens to the GHGs. At the same time, we need to understand the trade-offs between farming for low GHGs and other aspects such as productivity, profits and non-GHG environmental impacts. It's no good coming up with farming practices that really reduce GHGs, but render the farm less profitable or productive. No NZ farmers are ever going to implement those sorts of practices".

The NZAGRC programme is studying both dairy and sheep and beef farms and aligning with existing industry-funded trials to ensure that the results are relevant to farmers. For sheep and beef, the team is integrating with a new environment extension program within B+LNZ and will be working with their North and South Island based environment-focussed farms. NZAGRC funding will assist with the development of extension materials that enable S&B farmers to understand which mitigation approaches are most effective and what their influence is on overall farm performance.

The dairy sector programme will assess the GHG emissions from dairy systems, demonstrating a range of practical mitigation options for management of environmental impacts. NZAGRC work will integrate with two existing programmes; measurement and modelling will be based on the P21-II farmlet sites, while integration with the SLMACC Practical GHG Measurement will enable multi-year measurement of GHGs.

"We are excited to be linking up with these industry-funded trials", says Robyn. "We have a lot of experience of working with the dairy sector, but the relationship with the S&B environmentally-focussed farms is a new one. We have our views on which of the mitigation strategies are likely to be most successful on farm, based on previous modelling work. It will be valuble to see the strategies and practices being used in real life farming situations and to get a handle on what the impacts of strategies are. Our goal, after all our monitoring and modelling work in this programme, is to provide farmers with clear, practical guidelines for GHG-efficient farm systems".


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