Industry responds positively to Ecotain™
The launch of the first ever environmental plantain that has been shown to reduce nitrogen leaching from the urine patch has been well received by industry and farmers, says Agricom lead scientist Dr Glenn Judson.
Proprietary seed company Agricom has bred Ecotain, which has excellent performance as a forage plant for livestock and is the environmental plantain within Agricom’s nitrogen management system NSentinel 4™. Plantain began life as a common flat weed, and subsequent plant breeding and extensive trialling developed Ecotain, which can act to reduce nitrogen leaching.
Agricom announced research findings in September 2017 that shows Ecotain reduces nitrogen leaching from the urine patch in four ways. It facilitates a sustained diuretic effect in livestock, reduces the concentration of nitrogen in urine, slows the nitrification process in the urine patch and restricts the accumulation of nitrate in Ecotain-growing soil.
Dr Judson says industry response to Ecotain, which has unique properties that set it apart from other plantains, has been positive.
“It’s nice to see excitement in the industry that finally we may have a tool to solve nitrate leaching from livestock farms.”
Unlike many other plantains, Dr Judson says, Ecotain has large leaves, grows upright and has good growth in the winter months. “While our plantain has been used by farmers for many years, we now know that Ecotain can function environmentally to significantly reduce nitrate losses on farm from the urine patch.”
Agricom New Zealand Sales and Marketing Manager Mark Brown says they’ve had several inquiries from industry, farmers and rural consultants.
“There has been a lot of inquiry as news of the product has travelled around the marketplace. In particular we’re hearing from farmers wanting to understand what the product is and consultants who are interested in the technology behind Ecotain.
“Retailers are also interested in when they can source the product, and we will have commercial quantities available in February 2018.”
Dr Judson says the Ecotain launch helped to highlight the collaborative research that went into developing the product, “but there’s still more to come,” he says.
“We’ve got some indoor work we’re trialling at the moment, including some studies with dairy heifers.
“We’re concentrating now on scaling up the research to look at the impact of Ecotain across whole farms.”
On 30 November Agricom will host a workshop at their research farm in Oxford, Canterbury, for farmers, industry and rural consultants. Attendees will hear about the research behind Ecotain, its agronomy, and how the NSentinel 4 technology can be implemented on farm.
The Ecotain story
With Callaghan Innovation funding, Agricom developed the Greener Pastures Project in 2015, which combines research and expertise from Massey and Lincoln universities and Plant & Food Research. In parallel with the DairyNZ-led Forages for Reduced Nitrogen Leaching (FRNL) programme, the Greener Pastures Project has a comprehensive series of peer-reviewed scientific papers to support the NSentinel 4 concept and Ecotain.
Ecotain has been found to reduce nitrogen leaching from the urine patch in four ways: it increases the volume of cows’ urine which dilutes the concentration of nitrogen, it reduces the total amount of nitrogen in animals’ urine, it delays the process of turning ammonium into nitrate in the urine patch, and it restricts the accumulation of nitrate in Ecotain-growing soil. In the NSentinel 4 system, these four mechanisms of activity are referred to as dilute, reduce, delay, restrict.