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CLIENT NEWS: New research findings to feature at Ecotain industry event

Scientists and industry experts will hold an event in late November to discuss the latest research findings about Ecotain, a plantain cultivar that research has found acts environmentally to significantly reduce nitrogen leaching.

The event takes place on 30 November at Marshdale Farm in Oxford, Canterbury and will see representatives from Agricom, Lincoln and Massey universities, and Plant & Food Research discussing new research findings and practical applications of Ecotain on farm. The event is a forum for rural consultants, retailers and industry to discuss the complexities of nitrate leaching and the solutions available to farmers.

In September this year, proprietary seed company Agricom announced research findings that showed Ecotain can significantly reduce nitrogen leaching from urine patches on livestock farms. Most nitrogen leaching from livestock farms comes from the urine patch, an area containing high concentrations of nitrogen from cows’ urine.

Agricom has been working alongside researchers at Lincoln and Massey universities and Plant & Food Research to discover how Ecotain can function in pasture systems to reduce nitrogen leaching.

Their research found that Ecotain reduces 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 soils growing Ecotain. In Agricom’s nitrogen management system NSentinel 4, these four mechanisms of activity are referred to as dilute, reduce, delay, restrict.

New research findings from Massey University now put a minimum reduction rate of nitrate leaching from the urine patch at 30 per cent from pastures containing Ecotain.

Massey University’s Professor Peter Kemp will present his team’s preliminary research findings on the farm-scale impact of Ecotain. He says their findings so far show a reduction in nitrogen “hitting the ground” of at least 30 per cent.

Professor Kemp and a team of researchers are in the middle of a two-year trial measuring the nitrate reducing capabilities of Ecotain on dairy cows at the No 4 dairy farm in Palmerston North.  Cows are grazing three paddock types: ryegrass/clover, Ecotain/clover, and Ecotain. The paddocks are hydrologically isolated, where drainage from each paddock is collected and analysed for its reduction in nitrate levels.

“The 30 per cent figure is a minimum reduction achieved from the dilution of nitrogen in the urine, where the bioactive compounds in Ecotain are such that they create a diuretic effect in livestock,” says Professor Kemp.

“If you were to add to that scenario the additional nitrogen-reducing capabilities of Ecotain, you would likely get an increased reduction in nitrate leaching. Some of the lysimeter studies from Lincoln University have shown a reduction in leaching from the urine patch by as much as 89 per cent.

“For now, I’m very comfortable saying that Ecotain facilitates a reduction of nitrate leaching from the urine patch of at least 30 per cent.”

Ecotain event - 30 November 2017
Agricom science lead Dr Glenn Judson says collaboration has been an important aspect of the development of Ecotain, and the event on 30 November will allow members of industry to hear about the collaborative research behind Ecotain, see its practical applications at work, and ask questions.

“We have had a really positive response to Ecotain so far and it’s been nice to see excitement in the industry that finally we may have a tool to solve nitrate leaching from livestock farms,” he says.

“We’ve have lots of people asking questions around its application and agronomic potential, so this will be a chance to discuss these questions in person, and provide a practical insight into how the NSentinel4 nitrogen management system works.”

The event will also include presentations on the historical use of plantain in New Zealand, the botanical influences on pasture ecosystems, a practical demonstration of harvesting Ecotain and its establishment methods on farm.  

In the weeks following the event, farmers will be able to discuss Ecotain with industry and retailers and find out how they can incorporate it on farm. Ecotain is available in February 2018.

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.  For more information visit NSentinel4.co.nz or Facebook.com/NSentinel4

Pictured below left to right: Glenn Judson, David Green and Mark Brown from Agricom