Lumsden farmers Andrea and Chris Bulleid have changed direction in the way they farm, focusing increasingly on soil health and species diversity as the cornerstone of their business.
Their interest in regenerative agriculture, on their 832ha effective farm called Glengordon, has led them to experiment with different farming methods including removing the need for insecticides on winter crops and instead trying companion planting. “In the past our crops nearly always got munched on by insect pests.
Insecticide would deal with the infestation but would leave the crop looking sad and vulnerable and we knew we were also killing all the good insects. “It didn’t seem the right thing to be doing.
So last year we grew a crop of kale interspersed with hairy vetch, fava bean and buckwheat. This companion planting worked as the paddock was alive with mostly beneficial insect life – that ate the insects that destroy crops – and everything was kept in balance.”
They plan to continue their experimentation getting the seed mix ratio versus crop correct to obtain maximum yield. This year they have also trialled planting fodder oat as a cover/catch crop in between harvesting their swede crop and sowing the kale. The aim is to keep the soil covered, reducing drying, rain and wind erosion.
The oats will also uptake any nutrients so they won’t wash away then deliver them back into the soil so they are available to the kale crop.
Andrea says another benefit is that the oats can also be fed to hoggets if they are short of feed but more commonly it will be disced back into the ground to provide organic matter.
Another trial in progress is the planting of Japanese fodder willow Kinuyanagi. This is planted in an area identified as rough, wet and under utilised. An access gate will allow stock in during summer dry periods to graze this food source.
“We will graze it lightly for the first one to two years but once the root system is strong we expect about 10 tonnes of dm/ha. “ With this crop stock will eat anything under the size of your finger.
It’s medicinal and nutritious and Lumsden farmers Andrea and Chris Bulleid are focusing on soil health and species diversity as a cornerstone of their business at Glengordon farm. makes use of a difficult area.
We’ve only purchased enough trees for a portion of the area (to save expense) and we will harvest cuttings and complete the planting over the next two to three years,” explains Andrea.
Glengordon was originally Andrea’s family’s farm and the couple took it over around a decade ago. Since then they have upgraded much of the infrastructure and installed a water system.
The couple are undertaking ongoing tree planting and fencing off of waterways with most native trees eco-sourced and home grown. Fencing off water-ways and high value areas is assisted by grants from Environment Southland.
The couple’s farm comprises capital stock of 4300 Turanganui Romney ewes, 1200 hoggets, 70 angus beef-cross breeding cows, 70 R1 beef and 100 dairy heifers.
They say they don’t want to lose focus of the basics and consider good stock-manship and feeding as the keys to success.“There are no shortcuts but we’re open to learning ways to maximise the health and resilience of the stock that are future-proof.
We need the soil to continuously get better not worse and not be heavily dependent on inputs for survival. “ We need to allow nature to work alongside us and we’re just trying to find methods that suit this environment.”
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