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NZ Agricultural Climate Change Conference

Thursday, 11 April 2019 at 3:24pm

The NZ Agricultural Climate Change Conference (NZACCC) was held in Palmerston North on April 8 and 9.  This was the first conference in NZ that solely focused on climate change and the impact on the agricultural sector.

The conference was organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc).  

The conference comes at a time when the industry is starting to realise the importance of both mitigation and adaptation on farms in the face of a changing climate.  Acknowledging this importance, attendance numbers were huge with over 260 agricultural climate change focussed scientists, policy makers, farmers and industry representatives making the trip.

The first speaker of the day was Dr John Roche, chief science advisor at MPI.  He gave us a general introduction to the challenges raised by climate change “a wicked problem lacking a simple solution.”  He explained that NZ scientists are trying to find solutions and are making progress on various fronts such as developing better genetics, breeding forages that reduce methane emissions, and vaccines and feed supplements that can make a difference.  As for dealing with agricultural GHG emissions, Roche insists there are no silver bullets coming soon. But several technologies are being worked on and if they come to fruition they could be change agents. He says NZ research into mitigating the ruminant animal problem is world class and capable of yielding a striking breakthrough.

Wendy Stockwell released the findings of a Nielsen survey on how farmers' understanding of climate change and its impacts have changed over the last decade, and how farmers are now viewing greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in agriculture. The report shows farmers are focused on sustainability and the impacts of climate change more than ever. It also showed 92% of farmers are focused on making their farm more environmentally sustainable, up from 78% in a 2009 survey.  Some of the specific actions farmers mentioned were riparian/shelter planting, waterway control, improved fertiliser management and more efficient irrigation systems,. However only 23 percent of farmers anticipate an increased focus on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the next five years.

The next panel spoke about adaptation, including a presentation by Dr Judy Lawrence regarding the Climate Change Adaptation Working Group findings that were presented to Government in March.  More about this will be written in later blogs.

One of the highlights of the adaptation session was Anders Crofoot’s presentation, owner of Castlepoint station in the Wairarapa.  Originally from the US, he came to NZ in 1998 and was the Federated Farmers spokesman on Climate Change from 2014 – 2017.

Examples he gave of what they and other farmers are doing to both adapt to changes and to mitigate effects on the environment include:

  • Energy efficiency – power usage, vehicles

  • Production efficiency - less emissions/kg product produced

  • Novel forages

  • Carbon sequestration – trees, soil

  • ETS participation – forestry

His examples for reasons we should plant trees on farms include:

  • Erosion control

  • Shelter for stock

  • Amenity value

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Income diversification

  • Succession/Retirement income

  • Forestry is what we do with land that isn’t fit for livestock

His view was that the current government ETS was confusing, had more downsides than up and was not conducive to behavioural change.

The day concluded with some excellent question and answer time with the panel of speakers.  

To read the full presentations from the speakers visit the conference website - https://www.nzagrc.org.nz/conference.html

Day two focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the key items from this day can be found in our May blog.