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The story of Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is essential to New Zealand farm systems as it sustains growth and productivity.

There are three ways N is added to our soils:

  • By spreading nitrogenous fertilisers like urea
  • Through legumes (such as clovers) fixing atmospheric N
  • Or from urine patches left by grazing animals.

While N is essential for farming, the problem is that surplus N is lost to groundwater by leaching. This means it is not only an environmental challenge, but an economic one too, as this important nutrient so easily drains away.

THE URINE PATCH - HITTING THE TARGET

Where N fertiliser and applied effluent are well managed, losses are minimal.

Which means the urine patch is the greatest source of leached N. Because a cow grazes from a large area (140m2) and deposits all the N grazed from that area in a urine patch (about 3m2), the surrounding soil and plants cannot take up all the N, so it can be leached if water drains through the soil profile.

The reality is, of N leached from livestock systems, up to 90% originates from the urine patch.

REDUCED N-LOSS TO THE ENVIRONMENT

There are a number of options for mitigating N leaching on farm. Here are the current options available:

CURRENT OPTIONS

FARM SYSTEM

  • Stand-off pad / housing with controlled grazing
  • Less brought-in feed

SOIL FERTILITY

  • Optimise soil fertility
  • Low N-fertiliser rate / increased N efficiency
  • Soil-type specific systems
  • Nutrient budgeting

ANIMAL MANAGEMENT

  • Feed additives (e.g. ionophores)
  • N efficient genotypes

EFFLUENT MANAGEMENT

  • Pond design and storage capacity
  • Effluent application management

PASTURE / FORAGE TYPE

  • Optimal crude protein forage
  • Low protein supplements / conserved forage
  • Condensed tannins

PLANTS

  • Winter active crops
  • Catch crops

There is not a one stop solution available and management complexity is a barrier for some.

Finding a solution which helps reduce N leaching has been a real challenge – until now. Ecotain is a game changer when it comes to managing N.

NSentinel 4 & Ecotain

Nitrogen management with the power of 4.