The NZAGRC’s former nitrous oxide and soil carbon work streams were combined into one programme this year. This ensures a strong overall framework, closer communication and full GHG analyses across the programme. The programme focusses on three key areas:
1. Identifying and prioritising plant traits for low GHG emissions;
2. Mitigation practices to maintain soil carbon and reduce nitrous oxide emissions at paddock scale; and
3. Defining the achievable soil carbon stabilisation capacity of New Zealand grassland soils.
Current progress and research stories
Spikey receives prestigious environmental sustainability award
Spikey, a New Zealand innovation that is supported by the NZAGRC and the Global Research Alliance (GRA), has recently been awarded a prestigious environmental sustainability award by the professional body for engineers, IPENZ.
Spikey—so called because it is made up of long row of spiked discs that contact the soil when the device is towed over a paddock—is the brainchild of Pastoral Robotics Ltd. It detects fresh cow urine patches and treats them with environmentally safe chemicals that help more of the nitrate formed from the urea fertilise grass, increasing growth. This results in less harmful nitrate leaching into aquifers, lakes and rivers—Pastoral Robotics estimates Spikey will reduce nitrate leaching by up to 50 percent—and an increase in grass growth by up to 15 percent.
The NZAGRC helped fund Pastoral Robotics to optimise the on-farm performance of Spike®, and the Centre is also currently funding Spikey to be further developed as a research tool, using money from the GRA. The enhanced version—Spikey®—will be used to create 3D maps of the location, size and shape of urine patches to help estimate both direct and indirect emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). The enhanced detail that Spikey® is aiming to provide will enable targeted management and mitigation treatments that will potentially reduce N2O emissions across the wide range of grazed pasture soils in New Zealand and other GRA member countries.
The NZAGRC was delighted that Spikey’s potential as a game changer for the industry was recognised last month, with Pastoral Robotics receiving the Arthur Mead Environmental Award for best project at the annual IPENZ Auckland Branch awards dinner. The award is conferred for projects that make a significant contribution to preserving, conserving and improving the environment while addressing sustainability and potential adverse environmental effects.
Read more about Spikey
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