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Forages for reduced nitrate leaching

This multi-year project aims to: reduce livestock urinary nitrogen (N) excretion, sustain high levels of feed and animal production, hold more N in soil and reduce the amount of potentially leachable N, maximise yield and N use efficiency in forage crops and provide solutions that can be readily integrated into arable, beef/sheep, dairy or mixed-farming systems.

The focus will be on alternative pasture species, crop and pasture management and farm systems.

Alternative pasture species

Experimental research on crop and pasture species is available to farmers. Alternative pasture species with lower N content, cool season growth or which are deeper rooting such as chicory, plantain, Italian ryegrass and lucerne are being compared for yield, N uptake and plant characteristics including N content.

Crop and pasture management

The effect of management on crop and pasture yield and quality, such as irrigation, grazing, fertiliser application, crop establishment, crop rotations and effluent management, is also being investigated. This research will look at how management can improve the plant N uptake from the soil and reduce surplus intake of N by grazing animals, ultimately reducing N excretion and nitrate leaching.

Farm systems

Another focus involves developing farm systems that incorporate new mitigation options developed through the programme. Research results will be built into plant, animal and farm systems models (such as the DairyNZ whole farm model) to test scenarios, and new mitigation options will be demonstrated on-farm.

Farmer participation

A network of monitor farms has been established in Canterbury, with farmers selected through regional field teams from industry bodies and other rural professionals. The group consists of farmers who are keen to adopt new ideas, have an interest in sustainability and a long-term commitment to their farm.

Further information, including profiles of the arable monitor farms can be found at:

Also see page 8 of the publication below:

From the Ground Up, Issue 80

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching is a DairyNZ-led collaborative research programme across the primary sector delivering science for better farming and environmental outcomes. The aim is to reduce nitrate leaching through research into diverse pasture species and crops for dairy, arable and sheep and beef farms. The main funder is the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with co-funding from research partners DairyNZ, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Lincoln University, Foundation for Arable Research and Landcare Research.