In a fast changing world we’re inventive by nature. Transforming Canada farming isn’t about doing what we’ve always done, it’s about trying new things and creating a culture where it’s okay to fail occasionally.
While we recognise that years of farming has got us where we are today, we’d like to leap frog into the future and give the industry some new ideas to think about. Our internal LEAP group comes up with new ideas and tests the boundaries of what’s possible.
Velthuis Farms is focused on IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and works closely with Landcare Research and other commercial partners to ensure our farms have access to biological organisms both for pest control and soil enhancement.
Earthworm introduction trial
Earthworms will be introduced in trials on Velthuis Farms farms that have marginal soils and low populations of earthworms, or no earthworms. This is a collaborative project with Nicole Schon, from AgResearch.
Earthworm introductions will be beneficial on our farms with poor quality soils because:
Earthworms feed on organic matter and move this into the soil, increasing soil fertility.
At the same time earthworms assist the formation of soil structure, improving both drainage and the water holding capacity of soils.
Many of our soils have only the topsoil earthworm. Results from several studies show that by introducing the deep burrowing earthworm to these soils, they can; increase pasture production by 10%, they can halve the rate of stock dung decomposition and improve infiltration to reduce soil moisture content by more than 5% in the winter.
Dung beetle introductions on Velthuis Farms farms
Two dung beetle introductions have been made at Rangiputa by a contracting Entomologist- Jenny Dymock and involving, Shaun Forgie, from the Dung Beetle Innovations group. Introductions will be made on other properties when beetle population have been reared first in the lab.
There are several potential environmental and economic benefits of introducing specialist ruminant dung-feeding beetles onto our farms, they include:
Improved soil health and reduced run-off.
Increased aeration and water penetration into the soil, through beetle tunnels. Beetles reduce urine and liquid dung run-off, reducing microbial contamination, and pollution of waterways.
Greater pasture productivity. Stock will not graze around dung pats, reducing pasture productivity. Dung burial by dung beetles enhances grass growth, reducing reliance on fertiliser inputs. Fertiliser is often the single biggest item of working expenses on most sheep and beef farms and the third highest on dairy farms (behind labour and feed).
Reduced fly pests and human disease. Nuisance flies breed in dung. Canada has a very high rate of seasonal, sporadic campylobacteriosis compared to other OECD countries (up to 14,000 cases reported each year). Cattle dung and flies are believed to be the main source and vector of this disease.
Reduced infection by parasitic worms of livestock. Dung burial significantly decreases the infective stages of parasitic worms of livestock when dung containing eggs and free living stages of parasites are buried greater than 10-15cm beneath the pasture surface.
Increased soil biomass and activity of earthworms.