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Water quality workshop takes problems global

A visit to a farm as part of the workshop

Scientists from around the globe gathered at Massey University last month to share concerns and research with councils and organisations around effective and targeted water quality management solutions in sensitive agricultural catchments.

The workshop, A Targeted water quality management: Sharing and advancing science tools to manage nutrient flow pathways and their attenuation in sensitive agricultural catchments, was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Catalyst Seed Fund and organised by Massey’s Dr Ranvir Singh and his colleagues Associate Professor Dave Horne and Dr Lucy Burkitt.

The aim of the workshop, which included field trips around the region, was to strengthen ties between scientists, farmers, and organisations all invested in similar water quality work. This includes identifying potential collaborative opportunities for science, tools, technologies, and policy regulations.

Project leader Dr Ranvir Singh says to effectively tackle water quality issues across the New Zealand landscape we need to share learnings and experiences, as well as listen to others.

“There is no question that we need to find effective solutions to manage our agricultural catchments so that the twin goals of increased farm productivity and improved water quality can be achieved. One way we can achieve this is to collaborate with the world leaders in agriculture and water quality sciences to build capability by sharing and co-developing the best scientific methods, tools and practices. To come up with solutions we first need to measure, map and manage nutrient losses and their potential attenuation in our sensitive agricultural catchments.

“Robust science-based guidance and community-led initiatives will help achieve goals of increased farm productivity and improved water quality outcomes.”

Dr Ranvir Singh presenting his research

From around the world

Invited professors from overseas included Professors Matthew Helmers of Iowa State University (USA), Phil Jordan of Ulster University (Northern Ireland) and Brian Kronvang of Aarhus University(Denmark). Each presented on their research for effective water quality solutions in their respective countries. 

“Water quality is a critical issue faced by New Zealand and other countries worldwide,” says Dr Singh. “Leaching and runoff of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from intensive land use are of key concern for surface and ground water quality, not only in New Zealand’s agricultural catchments but also in places like Ireland, Denmark and the Midwestern United States. Water managers and scientists across these countries are putting significant efforts and investments to find solutions to reduce water quality impacts of primary production in sensitive agricultural catchments.”

“It was interesting to see how similar the issues and approaches are in different countries, offering a great opportunity to collaborate, share and learn with each other.” 

In attendance were scientists from Massey University, Lincoln Agritech and NIWA, as well as representatives from regional councils (Horizons Regional Council and Taranaki Regional Council), crown agencies, including the Ministry for Primary Industries, Office of Parliamentary Commissioner and originations such as DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb, the Foundation for Arable research, Ravensdown, Balance Agri-Nutrients, Fonterra) and local famers.

The project team will meet and organise another water quality workshop next year to share policy experiences for targeted and effective water quality solutions in sensitive agricultural catchments.

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