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Farming Future Lies In the Soil
Value or volume is the debate facing New Zealand farmers. Or, to put it another
way, are we better to produce smaller amounts of high value, high quality products,
or should we go for larger volumes of lower value products?
It's by no means a simple straightforward question. Those who favour high value
and high quality argue world markets have progressed beyond big dollops of
commodity-type produce. They also point to the increasing international concern,
particularly in European markets, about the integrity and provenance of produce,
and the environment in which it has been grown. And they maintain that in
this approach is the answer to the sustainability and reputation of New Zealand
agriculture and its place as a supplier of top quality primary products.
Those in the opposing camp counter by saying New Zealand has got where it is today
on the back of an abundant supply of grass that allows us to produce quantity at
very acceptable quality. Why ditch a winning strategy, they ask. We cannot change
overnight, and, by switching tack we run the risk of being caught in no man's land.
Across all of this lies another consideration. It's all very well to worry about
the long term; but that will not do much for us if we fail to survive in
the short term. So, it's a question of deciding between churning out as much as
possible in the short term, cashing in on the profits with no consideration for the
future, or developing systems that will be profitable -- albeit at slightly lower profit
levels -- for generations to come.
Both arguments have some validity.
International evidence suggests that consumers -- especially those in developed
markets -- are willing to pay a premium for food attributes such as safety, quality, the
manner in which it has been produced, and its impact on the environment.
New Zealand's parliamentary commissioner for the environment, Morgan Williams,
put it this way in his 2004 report Growing for Good: Intense farming, sustainability
and New Zealand's environment:
"Targeting these markets and emphasising these attributes of New Zealand food
provides a wide range of potential opportunities for the farming sector. Some
farming sectors have already responded to this challenge by targeting niche and
high-value markets, and increasing the premium on their products. This approach
holds real potential for increasing the value of farming output in a sustainable
"It is generally accepted that some consumers are willing to pay
a premium for food that is 'green' in origin. The labelling of such food
provides consumers with the capacity to identify and choose such food. The
willingness to pay varies from country to country and across different food products.
Some studies do support the argument that many consumers are willing to pay a
premium for eco-certified and labelled products."
At Fertilizer New Zealand we have taken the initiative and have a Biological range of
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• All your solid and liquid fertiliser requirements
• All general helicopter work
• MD500E & Squirrel helicopters available
• Call now to discuss your spring requirements
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The right poo for you
It is invariably seen piled up on the side of the road for sale carefully packaged in
bags with a large FOR SALE' sign advertising its availability.
Using manure (animal dung) as fertiliser
instead of chemical fertilisers is a cheap and
environmentally friendly way to support the
growth of plants.
CONTINUED Page 30
By TRISH MACKENZIE
What is this product? Animal manure!
Everything from chicken manure to donkey poo
is up for sale (at a varying range of prices) and
eagerly bought by avid gardeners, both urban and rural,
to be purchased and then dug into their plots for
Using manure (animal dung) as fertiliser instead of
chemical fertilisers is a cheap and environmentally
friendly way to support the growth of plants. Manure can
be used in any type of garden, whether it's a small
tomato plant in a container or a large vegetable or flower
garden. Manure helps create nutrients in otherwise
nutrient-poor soil, although most manure is better after
composting for six months to a year.
With the fertilisation of our plants and trees an important
aspect of their growth and keen gardeners keen to
ensure plants not only grow but are extremely healthy,
deciding just which the best animal manure to use is,
depends on many variables.
Chicken Manure: Chicken manure is considered "hot"
manure. This manure has to be composted before it can
be added to a garden or it will burn the plants. In fact, all
manures really need to be blended with straw, leaves
and composted food. Chicken manure is the richest
manure in terms of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash
and makes a significant difference in the quality of
blossoms, fruits and flowers.
Dairy cow manure: Dairy cow manure is safe in unlimited
quantities because of its low nutrient count. It is
preferred over steer manure since it has a lower amount
of salt and less weed seed content. This type of manure is
a good soil conditioner. Warning: Do not use fresh
manure as it is too acidic.
Horse Manure: Horse manure is half as nutrient-rich as
chicken manure and is also considered "hot" manure, so
make sure to compost it before using. It has twice as
much nitrogen as steer manure and contains a lot of
weed seed. When manure is considered "hot," this means
it will burn your plants if you put it directly on the
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