Business Rural Autumn 201

| 47 ARABLE » Hamish Marr / Birkett Farming • from page 46 The New Zealand Seed Authority is currently rebuilding a major database of the certification system that records every paddock that grows seed, the grower and paddock history. “A lot of the crops are certified and part of an international certification scheme so that no matter where the seed is sent it is recognised internationally. New Zealand probably has one of the highest quality seeds in the world.” For the last three years David has held the role of Federated Farmers Vice Chair for the Seed Division . Having held various leadership roles over the years, David now sees his role more helping to mentor younger farmers coming through. “The number of people in the industry is shrink- ing because farms are getting bigger. So we have to NZ seeds highest quality “The number of people in the industry is shrinking because farms are getting bigger. So we have to encourage people to become active in the industry so that voices are heard on a range of issues.” Valuing NZ’s pastoral based agriculture Nuffield scholar Hamish Marr says it is imperative that people understand the positives that come from New Zealand’s low level glyphosate use. Kim Newth F ifth-generation arable farmer Hamish Marr has spent some months now reflecting on his experiences as the 2019 Nuffield New Zealand scholar. One lasting impact of his travels to meet farmers and rural industries leaders in the US, UK, Europe and Asia is his deeper appreciation of how distinctively different New Zealand’s pastoral-based agricultural systems are compared to elsewhere in the world. “We’re fortunate to live here: we have amazing soil and an amazing climate that means we can turn our hands to anything,” he says. “We have ter- rific farms and farmers who are not subsidised and, as a consequence, our farmers are very innovative. We have terrific opportunities to capitalise on all of this.” The focus of his Nuffield research was on glypho- sate (Roundup), issues around its use in agriculture and what the implications would be if it was ever banned or deregistered in New Zealand. He sug- gests glyphosate has been a victim of its own suc- cess. Compared to other chemical herbicides on the market at the time of its release in the mid-1970s, glyphosate stacked up well as an effective and safe weed killer, being low in toxicity and breaking down rapidly in soil. It would go on to be the most used chemical spray in global agriculture, but calls for a reduction in its use have mounted in recent years after it was identified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Some European countries have planned to ban its use in agriculture. However, Hamish is confident there is no need to be alarmed about glyphosate use in New Zealand as he has found our exposure to it here is much lower than other countries. That’s due in no small part to New Zealand’s prominence in pastoral farming. “Our livestock go to the feed whereas in many other countries, animals are fed on imported feed, namely grains, silage and soy. All of these feeds are produced in arable systems that are completely foreign to us here, particularly in Canterbury. “In arable terms, we are a seed-growing nation, with our arable exports forecast by MPI to reach $310 million in 2022. Our exposure to Roundup is low because you can’t apply Roundup to seed- growing crops – we only use it after crops have been harvested as an aid to cultivating soil and creating a seed bed.” Along with his parents and brother, Hamish farms 500ha in Methven, Mid Canterbury with arable crops such as grass seed, red clover, wheat, barley, oats, peas and fodder beet and also grazes lambs and some 600 heifers. He believes it is imperative that people understand the positives that come from New Zealand’s low level glyphosate use. “It makes us so efficient because it cuts down so much on cultivation. If we didn’t have Roundup, we would not be able to direct drill and the cost of producing food would end up rising substantially as a result.” Small traces of glyphosate have been found in some New Zealand honey tested by MPI, including tiny traces in some Manuka honey products. Ham- ish says research is needed to find out how these traces are finding their way into honey. The New Zealand Food Safety has also found small traces in wheat, but observes that the levels found in both wheat and honey are so low as to pose no food safety concern. “What people tend to forget is that glyphosate is quite a benign, low toxicity chemical that replaced products that were really quite toxic in compari- son.” He does go on to say: “Our consumers should expect our produce to be the best that it can be and as farmers we should always be mindful of what we are doing and why we are doing it. As growers we rely on scientists and our consumers to guide us. To date we have had a very siloed approach to agricultural science where I think a more systems approach is required today.” Hamish is “forever grateful” both to his family and to all those who supported his Nuffield Scholar- ship research. He says receiving the scholarship was the agricultural equivalent to being selected for the All Blacks. Wheat grown on a low input basis by David Birkett. 03 302 8650 • Pr ecision Nit r ogen Application • Lime & Super Sp r eading • Advanced GPS T echnology • Mapping Capability • V ariable Rate Sp r eading • Pr escription Sp r eading Phone: 64 3 308 3322 Email: 460 West Street, PO Box 560, Ashburton 7740 OUR CONGRATULATIONS TO HAMISH FOR A WELL RE-SEARCHED NUFFIELD SCHOLARSHIP. · Cultivation & Drilling · Forage Harvesting · Baling and Wrapping · Slurry & Muck Spreading · Manure & Compost Supply · Supplementary Feed · Mowing & Cartage Office 03 303 0872 encourage people to become active in the industry so that voices are heard on a range of issues. If we don’t have the right people voicing the farmers’ views you end up with something you don’t really desire.”