Biodiversity in forage landscapes


A lot of information on forage performance in New Zealand already exists. This research strand involves summarising that existing material into a national database of pasture data and building a legume map showing which legumes will grow where. Another team is investigating the use of native plants – such as Karo (a pittosporum), Houhere (ribbonwood) and Māhoe (Whiteywood) – as fodder options. Finally, this strand explores development of a forage value selection tool for sheep and beef hill country farming systems.

National database of pasture production

This desk-top project summarises existing pasture data information into a national database, while also updating data to reflect the breadth of pastures used in 2020.

The first step is a nationwide screening to determine what information is available and useful. The intended outcome is a database that farmers, consultants and researchers can use to recognise forage opportunities suitable for their district. For instance, a farmer and consultant may draw on the database when feed planning, to compare forage options for their particular environment.

Fundamental to this project is that all published data from the broader Hill Country Futures programme will be readily available in one place. Furthermore, pasture measurement guidelines will be developed, so people can add to the database over time.

Lead scientist: Professor Derrick Moot

Legume map

The legume map aims to inform decision-making on farm, by alerting farmers to their options, as well as the risks associated with using different pasture species.

Legumes have long been recognised for their nitrogen-fixing ability and this feature will only become more valuable into the future. The question for farmers is “which legume where?”.

This simple question has a multitude of answers, because of New Zealand’s diverse landscapes, climatic conditions and farm systems. Even within a single farm, cultivatable vs non-cultivatable land, different topography and climatic variation add further layers of complexity.

The desired outcome is a legume map, whereby farmers match their property’s different land management units with the appropriate legume.

This work will complement the national forage database, by providing legume production curves for different regions. Farmers are often faced with several suitable legume options, however the growth curve and yield information for various options can be missing.

Lead scientist: Professor Derrick Moot

Team members: Jing Guo, Dr Paul Muir , Dr Annamaria Mills, Arulmageswaran (Arul) Shampasivam, Marcus Vinicius Talamini Junior

Native plants

Are any or some of New Zealand’s native plants suitable for use as sheep fodder?

Scientists are assessing the productivity and seasonal growth patterns of a range of indigenous browse species. They are also looking at their palatability, digestibility, protein content and other nutritional characteristics.

From a land perspective, what are the benefits for soil conservation, water quality and biodiversity?

Culturally, native shrub species have long histories and the team is building that knowledge into this project.

Lead scientist: Dr James Millner

Team members: Professor Paul Kenyon, Joan Ropiha , Georgia Simmonds

Forage selection tool

The goal is to develop a forage value selection tool for sheep and beef hill country farming systems.

An economic index exists for New Zealand dairy farmers, so initial work is investigating if this index could be adapted to hill country sheep and beef farming scenarios.

In line with the overall theme of the Hill Country Futures programme, forage “value” aims to incorporate aspects from the other research themes – in particular biodiversity in forage landscapes.

This initial work is being done alongside DairyNZ and the New Zealand Plant Breeding and Research Association.

Lead scientists: Dr Cameron Ludemann, Dr Alec Mackay