Hill country landscapes focus of five-year project

Hill country landscapes are the subject of a comprehensive research project which focuses on growing diverse pastures to sustainably lift productivity and profitability, and benefit rural communities.
Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The five-year project, which is a collaboration between Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, PGG Wrightson, Seed Force and the Federation for Maori Authorities, will be looking at legumes and forage options for hill country, matching land use with land use capability, developing pasture management guidelines and building strong rural communities.

B+LNZ ‘s Research Manager Tanya Robinson says field work, led by Professor Derrick Moot from Lincoln University, has already started with plot trials evaluating a number of legumes and forages. 

This work will be rolled out to field trials in hill country areas in Canterbury, Whanganui and the East Coast.  As well as running field trials, Derrick will be using models to understand the suitability of different legumes, forages and pasture mixes in diverse environments.

Another focus of the programme will be matching land use with land-use capability.  This will identify areas of hill country that are capable of supporting an increase in productivity and understanding what pasture diversity and regeneration looks like in these areas.

There has also been a lot of interest in regenerative farming internationally. Part of the project is intended to develop a framework for what regenerative farming could look like in a New Zealand context. 

Tanya says this includes talking to farmers, Maori Trusts, Iwi and cooperate farming businesses to gain an understanding of what hill country stewardship and regeneration means for them in a pastoral context.

Pasture guidelines and management packages will be developed through the project, taking into account the limiting factors and constraints in different land classes and environments. These packages will include all aspects of pasture management.

The project also has a strong social focus, which Tanya describes as being community focussed research and engagement.

This includes looking at the opportunities to capture greater value from product produced under strong hill country stewardship to benefit farming families, iwi and ultimately, rural communities.

“It’s about including the community and lifting perceptions on the value of farming on hill country.”

In this work, Tanya says they will likely to draw on work already done in building successful community catchment groups and seeking to extrapolate those critical factors out to hill country farming communities.

The project will continue to evolve over the next four years.