Major investment in plantain forage programme aims to improve freshwater quality

The Government is backing a major programme investigating plantain’s potential to help farmers protect waterways and improve freshwater quality, Acting Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri announced at Fieldays today.

The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) fund is contributing $8.98 million to the $22.23 million seven-year programme, which aims to deliver a low-cost forage solution to nitrate leaching.

Industry programme partners DairyNZ, Fonterra, and PGG Wrightson Seeds are collectively investing around $10.47 million in cash and $2.8 million in-kind in the programme.

“It’s vital we look after our precious streams, rivers and lakes. Plantain as a fodder crop has the potential to provide a cost-effective solution to improving freshwater quality,” Meka Whaitiri said.

“This programme is expected to demonstrate plantain’s efficacy at scale, so farmers have the confidence they need to invest in pasture and practice change.”

The programme will focus on Ecotain, a proprietary environmental plantain cultivar developed by PGG Wrightson Seeds, which could reduce nitrate-leaching by at least 20 percent.

Modelling by DairyNZ forecasts a potential reduction of 15,000 tonnes of nitrate leached per year by 2035, on New Zealand farms.”

The programme will involve farm scale trials, and implementation and practice improvement across various New Zealand conditions.

A major output of the programme will be a generic plantain evaluation system that will link to tools for farmers.

The programme’s first priority will be making sure we have substantial and robust scientific proof that Ecotain markedly reduces nitrate leaching at both the paddock and farm system scale, with no or minimal negative effects on farm profitability.

It will also aim to ensure there are no risks to animal health or welfare.

“We’re excited by plantain’s unique potential to make a positive difference to our farms, and contribute towards meeting our climate goals,” Meka Whaitiri said.

“Last year we upscaled the SFFF fund to further boost sector innovation efforts as part of our 10-year Fit for a Better World roadmap to drive value growth in the sector. This project is one of the many co-investments we’ve made with the sector to help farmers and growers.” 

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog