Bush Telegraph - 2021-06-07


Initiative takes aim at climate change


Aglobal research programme to support sustainable farming has just been announced, in response to the increasing strain climate change puts our primary industries. With its Kiwi base in Canterbury, Germinal has enhanced its long-term research alliance with the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in Wales. The initiative – which builds on nearly 35 years of collaboration between the two organisations – means Germinal now employs and directs a team of researchers at IBERS, specifically tasked with developing new pasture and crop varieties to help farmers address climate change. The agricultural seed company has exclusive worldwide production and marketing rights for the varieties bred in partnership with IBERS. Germinal NZ general manager Sarah Gard says IBERS is a research powerhouse. “We are extremely fortunate to have exclusive access to this innovation, and apply it to New Zealand’s unique environment. “We recognise the urgency of the threat of climate change, and the resulting pressure on farmers. We also know farmers are already making significant improvements to reduce emissions. “While it’s not a silver bullet, our new research programme with IBERS will result in alternative pastures that farmers can use as another tool to further reduce their environmental footprint. It’s about supporting farmers and ensuring they have the resources available to meet targets.” The Government has set a target of reaching net zero emissions of long-lived gases by 2050, and reducing biogenic methane emissions by at least 24 per cent. The Climate Change Commission’s recent report identified improved farm practices as a priority area, namely developing and adopting practices and technologies that lower emissions and address climate change. Innovative pasture and plant breeding technology play an important role, says Gard, who also manages two Canterbury dairy farms with her husband. “We believe alternative forages will become an important tool for reducing the impact of livestock farming on New Zealand’s environment – supporting farmers to sustainably balance increasing productivity and profitability, while reducing on-farm emissions.” Germinal’s research team based at Aberystwyth University will look at the lipid content of grasses, nutrient use efficiency and novel protein crops to reduce on-farm emissions. Potential new varieties include a clover capable of using phosphorus more efficiently than conventional clover – reducing reliance on synthetic fertiliser. Germinal already operates its own breeding programme in Canterbury, supported by on-farm trials throughout the country. “Our primary focus is developing new varieties for New Zealand, in New Zealand – ensuring our research translates into tangible results onfarm,” says Gard. “A key strength of New Zealand’s farming systems is that they’re predominantly pasturebased. The majority of the milk and meat produced in New Zealand comes from animals that consume 90 to 100 per cent of their diet as pasture or whole crop.”


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