Sunday 8 December 2013

New Zealand week 2

This will be a bit shorter than last weeks effort,

The past week in New Zealand has been amazing. The weather has been warm and windy with temps up to 30 degrees c. Today(Sunday) that broke with very heavy rain from 2pm that continues to fall!

We crossed from Wellington to Picton last Sunday on the ferry which is an amazing journey. The crossing was smooth and the scenery stunning with much of the time spent cruising in amongst Marlborough Sounds.

The highlight for this week has been to visit farmers who are operating cross slot drills on their own farms with little or no contracting to "justify" their drill.

David Ward who farms 950acres just North of Ashburton has a lovely farm with a central spine road with all the fields off this shingle track. His crops (all irrigated) looked amazing, clean, thick and he was also finishing 20,000 (yes twenty thousand) prime lambs and taking a cash crop as well as a grazed crop each year.

His machinery was very well maintained and fairly efficient! Only 2 tractors a combine and and self propelled sprayer were evidence of major implements plus hid cross slot drill. His soils have improved so much after 18 yrs no-till that he drilled his spring osr this year with a stanhay precision drill direct!

His soil OM had risen from 2.8% 20 years ago to over 4% now and the soil was superbly structured, full of worms and had definitely improved from the notill and irrigation.

His quote to me "Water is Carbon" meaning that more irrigation allowed him to grow more crop, harvest sunlight and build soil carbon was telling and the benefits could clearly be seen.

We then drove South through Timaru to St Andrews where we visited Mike Porter.

After David Wards flat farm with perfectly symmetrical fields and modern equipment Mike Porters property could not be more different. We learned that his neighbour had a centre pivot irrigator working on the steepest land in the southern hemisphere, and Mikes land was much the same!

His farm was also around 900 acres which was harvested by 2 claas dominator combines, a 106 and 96!

The land was steep with rolling hills and resembled land similar to that of the South Downs near Lewes in Sussex. The soil was heavier than the mornings visit and there was no irrigation on the farm, which had been in notill for 11 years.

An interesting view from Mike was "you know you've made it in farming when you get past we can't afford to buy it to we can't afford NOT to buy it"

I think this was possibly referring to his need to replace 2 old combines with a newer self levelling machine!

When asked what some of the long term benefits of notill were to Mikes life he replied
"I got my life back!"

This week has also seen us visit agronomist Roger Lasham, an English agronomist now working for Tyrley Farms in Canterbury. They grow a variety of cereals, seed crops, potatoes and onions and have a Sands sprayer that clocks an average of 50hrs/week for every week of the year! (1of2)

We have visited PGG Wrightsons seed breeding facility and also spent time with contractor and product specialist Mark Scott who operates 2 cross slot drills behind Fendt tractors. He is so busy that he has called on another contractor to help him out and has been driving the "night shift" himself to try and cover the acreage, with 1000ha still waiting to be drilled!

This weekend we have visited the centre of Christchurch to witness the devastation caused by the earthquake in February 2011. Many blocks are just open areas with vast areas of office space and shops fenced off waiting to be demolished. The innovation is evident with a trendy shopping area now made up of shipping containers that have been converted in to shops and caf├ęs.

Tomorrow (Monday) sees me off to Australia leaving Jake Freestone behind in New Zealand. I'm then into Adelaide and have a full-on week visiting 2 farms per day for the week.

Trust you're all well, will report back next week!

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