The changing landscape of growing practices

Land usage and maximising its potential has often been a hotly contested topic; with much debate over whose system is ‘better’ for the global ecosystem in terms of the inputs used to produce an output.

Whether that output is a horticultural, agricultural, textile or fibre crop, every farmer and grower will have their own opinion of what best practice looks like. Farmlands Organic and Biological Manager, Gaz Ingram believes that everyone has the right to choose their farming system and growing methodology.

“So long as we are not damaging the planet, our environment or impacting on our neighbouring farms or ecosystem, we need to choose what’s relevant to each farm.

“All three production methods – a conventional agrichemical and fertiliser approach, an organically certified operation or regenerative biological growing system – have positives and negatives to them,” Gaz says.

Based in the Central Hawke’s Bay, Gaz grew up on a sheep and beef farm before entering horticulture. He managed organic orchards in the 2000s and started his current Farmlands role in 2012.

"When I started with Farmlands, some growers weren’t ready for a softer approach and there were some critics when we discussed integrated pest management (IPM), seaweed and soil biology! “Farmlands recognised that we had shareholders who did think the same things about organic farming as I did and it was up to us to support them,” he recalls.

Though Gaz’s expertise lies in the organic and biological spheres, he is quick to point out that the co-operative’s expertise covers all three operation types.

“Modern chemistry and fertiliser inputs are more target-specific than some of the archaic broadspectrum inputs many of us began growing and farming with.

“Agrichemical companies can demonstrate the IPM suitability of their newer developed inputs and there are more efficient release/targeted fertiliser inputs, such as bio-polymercoated products designed to minimise volatilisation and maximise/optimise efficient delivery to the crop,” he notes.

Keeping up with regional and global reports can help identify trends too. The recently released World of Organic Agriculture 2020 report 1 shows that organically certified land usage is growing. By the end of 2018 there was 71.5 million ha of organic agricultural land. While this represents only 1.5 percent of total agricultural land it is an increase of over 2 million ha from the previous year (2.9 percent).

While organics is still a small percentage of the total agricultural market, domestically it is a big player on the export stage and consumer demand continues to grow. Regenerative and biological farming also features on the world stage, particularly in Europe, Gaz says.

“There are many different regenerative variations being applied. It depends on the individual farmer’s interpretation of the philosophy versus the practical implementation in their own environment.

“For example, to terminate the current cover crop you could choose to use a chemical intervention by way of herbicide, an animal intervention such as high density mob grazing to reduce the crop length before direct drilling, or a mechanical intervention – by using a crimp roller to terminate the cover crop and then direct drilling straight into it,” Gaz advises.

“As growers, agronomists, farmers and advisors, Farmlands' technical staff know the challenges and differences that each crop and location can bring to achieving results. We’re up for the challenge and are keen help each shareholder on their unique journey.”

Contact your nearest Technical Field Officer to start that conversation.

1. Helga Willer, Bernhard Schlatter, Jan Trávnícek, Laura Kemper and Julia Lernoud (Eds.): The World of Organic Agriculture Statistics and Emerging Trends 2020, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture.