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October 3, 2011 Low input farming gets a boost in Otago

An Otago lime quarry is investing in the growing interest among Otago farmers in low input farming – a farm management approach that seeks to reduce fertiliser application rates and costs, while maintaining farm profits and production levels.

Last autumn Parkside Quarries became one of the first South Island manufacturers of Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate, a fertiliser made from a matured blend of lime and superphosphate that significantly reduces both the cost of fertiliser and the level of nitrogen added to pastures.

Bob Wilson of Parkside Quarries says low input farming is the way of the future, and Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate is the cornerstone of this approach.

“Councils are auditing farms for run-off more frequently these days, and bottom lines are being squeezed.  It’s no wonder people are interested in taking a longer-term approach to farming.”

“Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate addresses both these issues with low cost application and minimal levels of run off and leaching,” he says.

“Its success in the North Island really speaks for itself.  It’s great that our farmers now have decent access to Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate, too.”

Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate was developed in Hawke’s Bay in the 1960s by the Hatuma Lime Company, and has steadily built a dedicated following throughout the lower North Island.  Recently, increased cost pressures on farmers and growing concerns about phosphate leaching into waterways has spiked interest in the product as farmers look for ways to maintain production levels with lower inputs than have traditionally been seen as optimal.

Puketapu sheep and beef farmer Phil Alexander has used Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate for seven years, and says it has future-proofed his farm.

“Using a low input fertiliser makes sense at a time when farmers are under increasing pressure to reduce carbon outputs, as well as runoff and leaching.”

He says lower nutrient inputs are particularly welcome in the face of tough economic and climatic conditions, and given that agriculture will come under the ETS from 2015.

“We have to get smarter about how we do things.  The challenge is making our production as efficient as possible and having a great product at the end of it,” Mr Alexander says.

Scientific studies on Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate farms have shown some surprising results in terms of soil quality and stocking numbers.

Jon Manhire from The AgriBusiness Group is heading a research project that is examining the effects of Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate on soil and pasture quality as well as production and bottom lines.

“It’s early days in our research programme but the results so far are encouraging. We’re seeing farmers putting less phosphate onto their pastures and maintaining higher stocking rates than their regional averages. This is encouraging in an era when farmers are having to find ways to cut costs and reduce their impact on the environment.”

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