Tuesday, November 30, 2021
HomeFarmweek NewsNZ regenerative farming could be biodiversity boost

NZ regenerative farming could be biodiversity boost

A new report suggests regenerative farming in New Zealand could increase the native biodiversity.

Professor David Norton, of the University of Canterbury, said it was highly likely that adopting five specific regenerative farming practices would increase native bird abundance and native vegetation.

“It is likely that the condition of native vegetation, native birds and aquatic biodiversity will all improve with a change from conventional to regenerative farming practices, but farmers do need to adapt practices from overseas to ensure they protect Aotearoa’s unique environment,” he said.

The report is one of three released that outline the possible effects of regenerative farming on animals big and small, and ways to measure these impacts.

The second report outlines how to assess the impact of regenerative farming on the welfare of animals raised for production, while the third examines how invertebrates like spiders and worms can be counted to evaluate the impact of regenerative farming practices.

The three reports were produced by a research project funded by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, the NEXT Foundation and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

Regenerative farming was developed in countries with large native mammals, such as bison. To mimic the way these herbivores would have grazed naturally, regenerative farmers practice intense grazing followed by long rest periods.

The New Zealand context is very different: there were no land-based mammals prior to human settlement, which occurred very late on a global scale.

This means much of New Zealand’s flora and fauna are not well-adapted to dealing with mammals, and many species are still adjusting to the pressures of settlement.

Because of this, ‘regenerative’ grazing in native tussock grasslands (and any grazing in native forests) is likely to be detrimental to native biodiversity. The Mackenzie Basin is an area of particular concern.

Despite this key difference, most of New Zealand’s pastoral farms are now based on grasses that originated in other countries, such as ryegrass and clover.

On these farms, the regenerative grazing approaches followed overseas are appropriate, and build on well-established rotational grazing practices.

In the report Native biodiversity and regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, Professor Norton proposes five key practices for implementing biodiversity conservation:

n Think about how native biodiversity might be on your farm in future;

n Clearly identify the factors that are currently limiting or threatening native biodiversity now, and that may do so in future, as you seek to achieve your goals;

n Take a spatial approach to farm planning that is not constrained by the current farm layout;

n Implement adaptive biodiversity management at multiple scales across the whole farm;

n Continually monitor biodiversity outcomes and use this as the basis to refine management.

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