14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Brendon & Rachel Williams of Pencoed Trust - Arable and Finishing.
This Rangitikei couple is embracing new GPS-based technologies to improve crop and environmental outcomes – ultimately producing a sustainable income. They see knowledge as a key tool, enabling them to make informed decisions when improving production systems on their arable and finishing farm.
Brendon and Rachel entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because they saw it as a way to further build their knowledge. It was also an opportunity to benchmark themselves against others who are practising excellence.
The couple are third generation farmers on this property that was originally bought for its excellent soils, with decision-making very much centred around caring for this precious resource. They’re highly aware of their environment, viewing it as a ‘bank’ that must be maintained and improved.
The judges were impressed with Brendon’s enthusiasm for using precision agriculture to produce sustainable yields and improve nutrient-use efficiency. Technology is also boosting their ability to reduce environmental impacts on water quality and climate change. The GPS-based technologies include precision spatial management of soil testing, nutrient inputs, tillage and yield monitoring. This level of precision has significantly reduced Nitrogen inputs and leaching. The judges commended the couple’s crop and pasture rotation structure that is designed to build soil quality and fertility.
The farm was one of the first arable cropping enterprises to seek resource consents under the Horizons One Plan, plus fossil fuel usage has significantly dropped. Other conservation measures include retirement planting, stock exclusion from waterways and retention dams to reduce runoff. There are new native plantings along wetlands and streams, a fully reticulated water system and extensive sub-soil drainage.
The Williams’ are the first to admit it’s a challenge to produce a sustainable income but they keep working at it every day and are proud of what they’ve achieved so far.