Monday, February 26, 2024

Govt sows climate-resilient pasture programme

Breeding pasture designed to thrive in a changing climate is the focus of a new ‘Pasture Accelerator’ programme being backed by the Government, Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor announced today.

“New Zealand’s unique pastoral farming system underpins our biggest export sector. With food and fibre export revenue forecast to grow to a record $62 billion by 2027, it’s important that we ensure our pastures and soils stay healthy into the future as we face a changing climate,” Mr O’Connor said.

He said the new ‘Pasture Accelerator’ programme will focus on genomic technology that combines genetic information and physical information to speed up the traditional breeding process.

“Ryegrass will be bred to handle heat better and use nitrogen more efficiently, and there’ll be a focus on breeding higher yielding and more resilient clovers. This research will underpin greater returns for pastoral farmers with the improved yields estimated to increase revenue to farmers by around $1 billion by 2040.”

The Government is contributing $8.4 million over seven years through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures). Barenbrug, Grasslands Innovation Limited (a joint venture of which PGG Wrightson Seeds is a major shareholder), and DairyNZ will contribute the balance in cash and in-kind. AgResearch is the key research partner. Barenbrug and PGG Wrightson Seeds will implement the research findings.

The work builds on a successful Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment partnership programme called Pastoral Genomics, which demonstrated how effectively genomic selection could be applied to ryegrass.

Minister O’Connor said it was encouraging to see two of the largest players in New Zealand’s seed industry collaborating on such an important issue.

“Climate change is forcing a change to ‘business as usual’, and the seed industry acknowledges the importance of working together to find solutions. This joined-up approach promises more chance of being able to help our farmers succeed in a warming world,” he said.

“Government investment in this programme will ensure that farmers can reap the benefits of improved pastures much quicker and it’s an example of the work the Government has been doing to future-proof our economy against the effects of climate change.

“It’ll also help us meet the targets in the Government and sector’s Fit for a Better World roadmap for the food and fibre sector, which aims to boost sustainability, productivity and jobs over the next decade.” 

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