The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) is an applied research and information transfer organisation responsible primarily to New Zealand arable growers.
Applying nanotechnology to agriculture to increase productivity and reduce environmental impacts has secured a Lincoln University team a million dollar grant from MBIE’s Endeavour Fund.
Lincoln University Associate Professor, Craig Bunt, said his team would develop a groundbreaking nano-coating which could be applied to fertiliser to control its rate of release into soil, and to seeds to control their timing of germination.
“Controlling fertiliser rate of release is important because release that is too rapid can result in excessive nitrogen being lost into soil and waterways, causing significant pollution and other negative environmental impacts.
“When nitrogen is lost to the soil, waterways, or atmosphere, farmers must apply more fertiliser to achieve desired results, which increases farming costs.”
He said they would initially focus on understanding the science of the new polyester nano-coating and its biodegradation, then apply the technology for controlled release fertilisers and delayed seed germination in partnership with companies and organisations such as Ravensdown and the Foundation for Arable Research.
He added that while controlled-release fertilisers are currently available, they have significant limitations, including lack of robustness (reducing their effectiveness) and a high coating-to-fertiliser ratio.
“Our technology, using a novel, revolutionary coating, will solve these limitations.”
He said it could also be applied to seeds to control the timing of germination.
“The benefits of delayed germination are manifold. For example, farmers could sow crops traditionally sown in autumn several months earlier, when weather conditions are more conducive to sowing.
“They could also sow two crops at once: one with uncoated seeds, and the other with coated seeds, to delay germination until after the first crop has matured or been harvested.
“Delayed germination could also allow farmers to control weeds that grow after sowing, so that the coated seeds germinate after weeds have been sprayed. This will increase crop yields because competition from weeds can be significantly reduced.”
He described the technology as a specific solution that increases sustainability, enhances productivity, and for New Zealand will help improve yield and export revenue.
The project team members also include Dr Greg Walker (Otago University), and Dr Sally Price and Weiyi (Ivy) Liu, both from Lincoln University.
The Government has commenced a public consultation process on proposed freshwater reforms developed in response to increasing public concern over the declining quality of New Zealand’s waterways.
The Action for Healthy Waterways document sets out a package of proposals to address two key government objectives around water:
- Stop further degradation of New Zealand’s freshwater resources and start making immediate improvements so that water quality is materially improving within five years.
- Reverse past damage to bring New Zealand’s freshwater resources, waterways and ecosystems to a healthy state within a generation.
FAR has summarised the key issues of relevance to the arable industry in this information sheet for the arable industry.
Making a submission
FAR will be submitting on the Freshwater Proposals and will also be contributing to a Federated Farmers’ submission. We encourage all members of the arable industry to read the full document, attend consultation meetings and, if they have concerns about the proposals, to make a formal submission. If you are interested in making your own submission, you may the below submission template and information sheet developed by Irrigation New Zealand, of use. The consultation period has been extended to 31 October 2019.