Theme Two

Theme 2: Landscape classification tools

There are three parts to this research area.

1: Modelling legume yield

What are we doing for farmers?

The purpose of this research area, led by Derrick Moot (Lincoln University) and Edmar Teixeira (Plant & Food Research), is to develop robust methods to estimate the yield and suitability of forage legumes across New Zealand. To do this, a real-time (daily time step) model, the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) model, is being developed that can answer questions around environmental impacts, climate change, nutrient leaching and carbon sequestration on legume-based pastures. APSIM is described as "a comprehensive model developed to simulate biophysical processes in agricultural systems, particularly as it relates to the economic and ecological outcomes of management practices in the face of climate risk".

At this stage, the APSIM model is being used to assess forage legume yield from a national perspective using lucerne as a proof of concept due to the extensive data available. This work is directly linked to the AgYields national forage database that is being developed as part of Theme 3. This model will also simulate lucerne growth under dryland conditions and from that provide input data that can be used to assess environmental impacts of using high quality forages on soil and water quality.

Ongoing and planned research:

  • Work on the national datasets and the APSIM model is ongoing. At the end of the programme it is planned that the APSIM model will be suitable for addressing environmental and policy-relevant questions at a national scale (e.g. climate change and resource use). 

  • Comparison between the APSIM and the thermal time-based model is being validated with data from the national forage database (RA 3.1). Reasons for any anomalies are being interrogated, and a manuscript is being prepared that compares the findings. Further work on the rainfed ASPIM model is ongoing.

2: Micro-scale indicators

What are we doing for farmers?

The purpose of this research area, led by James Barringer (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research), is to map micro-indicators (soil temperature and moisture) in the hill country landscape and use this data to support and link to the forage models being developed in other parts of this programme.

As hill country farms typically have diverse landscapes within individual farms, there is a need to help farmers quantify key soil and terrain features of these landscapes (e.g. soil temperature and moisture dynamics). This work will enable robust decision-making around the most suitable locations and potential benefits of introducing forage legumes into their hill country landscapes.

Ongoing and planned research:

  • Data acquisition of micro-indicators from the six sites is ongoing and is being monitored in near real-time. Mirroring the data record and ongoing data monitoring to Amazon Cloud services to improve the data download function to facilitate data analysis is ongoing. This will also include attention to data quality (managing transmission errors and gaps) and resolving communication issues at the Prices Valley site, which has a unique problem with 4G/3G cell connectivity.

  • Now with an entire season of field data, spatial analysis of soil temperature and soil moisture will become the focus of this work area moving forward.

  • Once the farm-scale temperature and moisture analysis are successfully achieved, assessment of the legume forage models at the farm-scale will follow.

3: Measures of natural capital

What are we doing for farmers?

The purpose of this research aim, led by Alec Mackay (AgResearch), is to develop metrics of natural capital that includes these three critical measures: soil health, organic matter, and terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity.

Current approaches to land evaluation and classification have limited ability to capture the diversity of landscapes in terms of their financial and non-financial (social and environmental) values. The ability to measure and evaluate these attributes are important functions for the farm business. This research area has been developed to improve environmental insight around future challenges to farming and the knowledge and tools required for farmers to monitor and report on their businesses.

Ongoing and planned research:

  • Non-financial indicators (e.g. biodiversity, soil health) will be integrated into the next-generation of farm plans to capture the financial and the non-financial benefits (services) from farmed landscapes.

  • Non-financial metrics (e.g. biodiversity, soil health) will continue to be evaluated and validated for use by farmers. Incorporation of these metrics in the farm planning process will provide farmers with more information on the health of their soils, water ways and native flora and fauna to help inform their decision making.

  • Develop an implementation pathway for incorporating these financial and non-financial metrics of natural capital into the farm planning process. Some of this will be done in collaboration with the ‘pathways’ framework that is being developed as part of Impact Statement 1 as well as existing B+LNZ activities.

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE - Model of forage legume potential with indicators at macro and micro scales

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE - Hill country resilience classification system

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