Conference organiser challenges critics

Press Release – NZ Soil Carbon Conference

An article questioning the involvement of MAF and Agmardt at the upcoming Soil Carbon Conference at Te Papa is being described as “archaic.” NZ Soil Carbon Conference organiser challenges critics
An article questioning the involvement of MAF and Agmardt at the upcoming Soil Carbon Conference at Te Papa is being described as “archaic.”

Conference organiser Nicole Masters said the coverage in this month’s Country Wide magazine neglects the views of countless farmers using biological techniques to successfully sequester carbon.

Country Wide claims the carbon situation in New Zealand as having “little opportunity” and that “biological farming doesn’t have proven science behind it”, however Ms Masters refutes that claim.

“There are huge opportunities for NZ farmers to implement practices that build the biological functioning of their soils. There is in fact no downside to the implementation of soil friendly practices, the only loser in this debate is the products which have negative impacts on soil function and water quality,” Ms Masters said.

“The article highlights the very need for the New Zealand Soil Carbon Conference right now, so we can air the findings from successful innovative farmers, supported by multi-disciplinary scientists, in order to have some constructive conversations.”

Ms Masters said farmers were often 10-15 years ahead of researchers.

“Anyone with an interest in agricultural extension knows that there is a huge amount of evidence to support the fact that it is the farmers who are the innovators, who discover new methods to solve on-farm issues, whilst science then provides the data to support their findings.”

“There is scientific research being carried out in NZ by different organisations, but while the research is happening, biological farmers are getting on with the job.”

She said that claims the conference lacked top New Zealand soil scientists was unfounded with Brent Clothier, science leader at Plant and Food, Jacqueline Rowarth, Director of Agriculture at Massey University, Markus Deurer (P&F) and Graham Shepherd all speaking at the conference.

“Yes we have Australian Professor Tim Flannery, as he is offering a chance to assess the science between climate change and soil carbon levels. This is the crux of the issue; agriculture requires multi-disciplinary generalists to communicate research between different fields.”

Ms Masters took issue with a number of points raised by the magazine including that New Zealand soils are in a “steady state of equilibrium.”

“Take a spade and see how far your rooting depths go, how deep does your lovely dark topsoil go? Here is your visible carbon. But how much further down could your roots go? The possibilities are endless– ryegrass has been found to depths below 6 metres. “

“Attempting to prevent farmers from engaging in such discussions is archaic at best. We are confronting complex issues that require solutions from all sectors in a collaborative manner, “Ms Masters said. “Commercial research into tools such as genetically engineering clover and injecting vaccines to reduce GHG, are not tools to help farmers today. What we need are methods which can be easily adopted into current practices – which don’t require a so-called silver bullet.”

Ms Masters said that attendees to biological seminars in the past year included representatives from some of the largest farming and growing companies in New Zealand. “Now those companies are seeing the impacts the current model is having upon their profit margins and soil quality.”

“It seems a shame that there are interests in NZ who wish to stop innovative farmers and growers and scientists from questioning and finding solutions to the dilemmas facing agriculture.”

ENDS

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