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The FFC Bulletin 2023 V1 January

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Welcome back!

Happy new year and welcome back to the FFC Bulletin!  After a hiatus of two years, due to the loss of a key funding stream at the end of 2019, the FFC Bulletin is back! Funding for the FFC is still limited, so it is operating on a shoe-string, but, there is a growing feeling that there is something of a tipping point, even a paradigm shift happening in Aotearoa-New Zealand and global agriculture.  This paradigm shift is the accelerating change from intensive agriculture with its sole focus on yield maximisation and commodities, into agroecology, sustainable production and added value products.

The future of farming that the Future Farming Centre was setup to support may thus be arriving!  So even though the FFC has limited resources, it feels more important than ever that it continues to help farmers and growers navigate and prosper from this change.

So with so much that has happened in the last two years there is some catching up to do, this is a bit of a bumper issue.

What is agroecology?

If you are not familiar with agroecology, both the science and practice, there is a century of agroecological research and farming to catch up on!  This is a 45 minute webinar by A Lighter Touch introducing agroecology.  Else, the FAO and Wikipedia  have good written material that will help you start to understand the future of farming. Plus see more information below.

The global transition to agroecology – the examples of the FAO and EU

There are two massive standouts in the transition to agroecology, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) and the EU (European Union). Read more

Landcare Research – Manaaki Whenua — Our Land and Water Regenerative Agriculture reports

The FFC, through its head Dr Charles Merfield, was heavily involved in the recent series of research reports from Landcare Research – Manaaki Whenua and the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge – Toitū te Whenua, Toiora te Wai. These explored many aspects of Regenerative Agriculture: What is and what it is not. What potential it offers for New Zealand and what research is required to support it. Read more

Quorum Sense – Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Regenerative Agriculture farmers’ network

With the interest in Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa-New Zealand farmers and growers interested in Regenerative Farming have formed a farmer / grower -led network called Quorum Sense (QS). Named after the microbial phenomena quorum sensing the group runs social media networks, holds fieldays and has a highly informative website hosting a knowledge hub, podcasts, webinars and much more. So if you are interested in anything regenerative in Aotearoa Quorum Sense is the place to go!

Integrated weed management for herbicide resistance in arable cropping systems

A five year MBIE funded project has been looking at herbicide resistance in Aotearoa New Zealand particularly in arable and viticulture. It has found that herbicide resistance is widespread across both industries. In arable systems there are multiple plant species with resistance, particularly to Mode of Action (MoA) 1 (PSII photosynthesis inhibitors) and 2 (acetolactate synthesis inhibition). In viticulture a third of vineyard nationally and 50% of vineyards in Marlborough have glyphosate resistant ryegrass. As part of this project Head of the FFC Dr Charles Merfield wrote a comprehensive report on Integrated Weed Management in arable cropping to address herbicide resistance. Download the report.

Redefining weeds for a post herbicide era

And off the back of the work addressing herbicide resistance, Dr Charles Merfield has recently published a paper called “Redefining weeds for a post herbicide era”. Somewhat amazingly there is no globally agreed definition of a weed and the definitions by organisations such as the Weed Science Society of America and the European Weed Research Society are at sixes and sevens. In the paper Dr Merfield proposes a radically different definition of weed and proposes the concept of aliae plantae for those non-crop plants that are not weeds. Read the full paper online or email for an ePrint.

‘A Lighter Touch’ agroecology projects

The ‘A Lighter Touch‘ project is a collaboration between the horticultural and arable sectors in Aotearoa-New Zealand focused on pesticide reduction. Two sub-projects are looking at agroecological transformations of perennial crops (using Citrus as a model crop) for arthropod pest management and alternatives to pesticides in field vegetable production. Read more

Our phosphorus future – towards global phosphorus sustainability

Back in the early days of the FFC there was global concern about the level of phosphorous reserves with some analyses finding that reserves could be a low as 50 years. The good news is that a new analysis puts it at 400 years. “Our Phosphorus Future” has recently published a major report “ A sustainable direction for phosphorus will lead to better food production, cleaner waters, healthier people and greater biodiversity” that updates the global phosphorus situation. Read more


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