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Place-based approaches to assessing the impact of regenerative agriculture in NZ

November 2021

Research on regenerative agriculture in New Zealand might benefit some regions more than others, finds this report. Regions that are likely to experience the effects of climate change more intensely, or where communities are already working together and uphold strong land-stewardship principles, are two examples where regenerative research, in partnership with communities, could provide greater benefits.

“Research to test the possible benefits of ‘regenerative’ practices could have higher impact in parts of New Zealand where there are region-specific issues or opportunities. The knowledge we gain from doing research in those regions will be of wide benefit to all of New Zealand,” says lead author of the report Dr Fiona Curran-Cournane, principal scientist at the Ministry for the Environment.

Four local case studies across Aotearoa New Zealand where regenerative farming principles have the potential to address problems faced by farming communities are identified in the report, Place-based approaches to assessing the impact of regenerative agriculture in New Zealand:

1. In Otago and Southland, the report describes regenerative agriculture techniques that could help address surface erosion caused by winter-forage cropping. It describes proactive approaches that may help retain ground cover and soil cohesion following grazing. Specific examples of regenerative techniques described in the report include ‘bale grazing’ and ‘deferred grazing’.

2. In Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay, some regenerative agriculture practices are identified that may support adaptation to predicted increases in the frequency and severity of drought and intense rain events under climate change. Practices identified in the report include ‘long residual’ grazing, adding pasture species with a diversity of root systems and height, and allowing pastures to grow taller.’The research found regenerative agriculture techniques have the potential to adapt to and mitigate a range of issues facing the North Island’s upper east coast related to climate heating,’ says one of the report authors, Dr Charles Merfield of the BHU Future Farming Centre at Lincoln University.

3. In Pukekohe, the South Auckland market gardening area that contributes over 20% of New Zealand’s vegetable production, the report highlights the potential for regenerative agriculture practices to address the very low soil carbon levels and excessive fertiliser application rates associated with intensive conventional outdoor vegetable production. Such practices include the use of cover crops, minimal tillage, and reductions in synthetic fertiliser application rates (for example, via regular soil testing to ensure targeted fertiliser use and avoid excess nutrient loss). Although these practices are not specific to regenerative agriculture, there could be high impact through encouraging a mindset of continuous farm improvement, a key principle of regenerative agriculture. Scientific evidence for any benefits of regenerative agriculture could also encourage uptake of these practices.

4. In the upper Waikato, a key issue is the need to mitigate the impact of land use on water quality in the Waikato River. Regenerative agriculture is resonating strongly for iwi and Māori landowners within and around the Ruahuwai takiwā, says Mike Taitoko, a specialist in Māori and indigenous economic development.’Based on current regenerative agriculture initiatives and planning processes, these groups are increasingly strengthening their culture and connection to their land and rivers,’ says Mr Taitoko.

In this report, a series of regional specific issues and opportunities are considered and proposed as localised case-studies for testing whether RA could deliver sought-after benefits to New Zealand in specific contexts. Each case study was compiled by a different author and peer-reviewed separately.

Contract Report LC3954-6

Projects which produced this output

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