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NZ dairy giants team up to tackle nitrogen leaching

Dairy giant Fonterra and confectionery business Nestle have partnered with DairyNZ to undertake a plantain trial to improve the waterways and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from farms. 

The companies said in a statement that plantain for cows helps decrease nitrogen concentration in their urine, which seeps through soil in the farmland and into groundwater. The Tararua Plantain Project is being undertaken in the North Island where farmers plant leafy herbs to feed cows. The Ministry for Primary Industries is also involved with the project.

“We’re all about finding ways to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand has a thriving environment and a thriving farming economy,” said Fonterra director of on-farm excellence Charlotte Rutherford. “We can achieve more by partnering with others, so it’s great to join forces with DairyNZ and Nestle. This is helping to speed up the adoption of plantain by farmers. Ultimately it could be a real game-changer to reduce nitrogen from cows and help mitigate nitrous oxide emissions.”

The farmers plant leafy herbs to feed the cows on the farm.

A functional plantain cultivars called Ecotain was developed by seed company Agricom, that is used by 50 Tararua farms. DairyNZ, Agricom, Lincoln University, Massey University and AgResearch have been using Ecotain which has been shown to significantly reduce nitrogen leaching.

“Working with our suppliers and others is critical for achieving Nestle’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Robert Erhard, Nestle corporate sustainable agriculture. “Reducing on-farm greenhouse gas emissions and protecting waterways will help us get there and we’re pleased to partner with Fonterra and DairyNZ on this initiative.”

David McCall, DairyNZ general manager for new systems and competitiveness, said the flagship project has been ongoing for seven years now and will “deliver real, tangible results valued by farmers”. It focuses on the community to improve its water quality and ensure the dairy sector it will continue to be the economic pillar in the area.

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