Protecting our soils

The main findings from this project showed that helicropping can be undertaken and utilised in a way that minimises environment risks.

The overall project objective was to define the role of helicropping in crop establishment and pasture renewal including: 
• methodology 
• where best undertaken 
• identification of risks (particularly at grazing) 
• risk mitigation (catch crop, cover crops, sediment bunds and runoff barriers).

The project harnesses learnings from existing knowledge gained by the industry (particularly farmers already successfully helicropping) as well as developing new scientific methods around measuring the effectiveness of buffers and mitigations.


Helicropping is a process-driven application of recently available technologies that enable helicopters to be used for precision application of herbicides, fertiliser and seed to hill country to establish crops and renew pastures.

For more information on this project, see the Ballance website.

Key results

The main findings from this project showed that helicropping can be undertaken and utilised in a way that minimises environment risks.

Note that a helicopter is not necessary for a helicrop. The process can be followed using wheeled equipment.

• To successfully helicrop and establish a crop or pasture with no tillage, it needs to be done correctly with a clearly defined process. Planning is key. 
• It is recommended that a helicrop be established on flat or rolling topography (not on steep terrain). 
• Pasture renovation can be undertaken by helicropping on steep terrain but not the cropping phase of the process. 
• Heli-cropping is competitive with tillage for establishing a crop with less risk of soil loss.

Benefit for farmers

This project has provided insights from farmers using this technology on-farm and has determined key factors that need to be considered for the successful application of helicropping.

B+LNZ investment

This was a three-year project with investment by B+LNZ of $105,000 over the duration.


Farmer events

Five field days throughout the project.

Popular press articles

Scientific publications and conference proceedings


• Heli-cropping handbook – contact Ballance for your hard copy. 
Ballance factsheet (PDF, 1.3MB). 


This is a Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund project led by Ballance Agri-nutrients (Suzanne Young and Ian Tarbotton) and co-funded by MPI, Ballance Agri-nutrients, B+LNZ, Agricom, PGGW Seeds, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, AgFirst and NuFarm. 

Lead Scientists: Karen Mueller (Landcare Research), Bruce Willoughby (independent scientist), Murray Lane (Ballance Agrinutrients), Graeme Hull (Scopix LtD). 
Farmers involved: The sustainable helicropping group. 
B+LNZ point of contact: Jason Griffin and Cara Brosnahan.