1 June 2008
Canterbury farmer David Ward is the inaugural winner of the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust (NZFEAT) and MAF Study Scholarship.
Open to the previous year’s Supreme winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the $15,000 scholarship allows the winner to undertake a major study topic “relevant to sustainable and profitable farming as it relates to New Zealand”.
David Ward’s win was announced by Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Jim Anderton, at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards Sustainability Showcase on June 27.
David and his wife Hilary run a 425ha mixed cropping unit near Ashburton and were Supreme winners for the Canterbury region in 2007.
His study project will focus on the use of lucerne as either a cut-and-carry forage crop or for grazing for dairy farms and dairy support blocks. Lucerne was widely used in New Zealand traditionally but is less popular today. However, the crop (which now includes new species) has some specific properties that may prove beneficial for farmers faced with rising fertiliser costs, changing weather patterns, restricted water use and issues surrounding the use of Nitrogen.
Lucerne copes well in dry conditions, requires lower fertiliser inputs than most greenfeed crops and is believed to have excellent nutrient conversion properties.
NZFEAT trustee and scholarship promoter Peter Nation said the lucerne study would help address some real challenges that NZ agriculture is facing, particularly with the increased focus on dairying.
“While David's intention is to specifically focus on using lucerne crops in the Canterbury region, the interview panel felt that this study offered advantages that were applicable to any part of NZ.”
Mr Nation, who judged the scholarship applicants along with farmer and ex NZFEAT chairman Bill Garland, MAF representative Phil Journeaux and Warwick Cato of Ballance Agri-Nutrients, said the judging panel was impressed with David’s enthusiasm for his subject.
He will study the topic using contacts in Australia and at Orange University in the USA where he intends to source research data to support his project.
Peter Nation said the judging panel felt David’s communication skills, professionalism and passion for sustainability would ensure his study offered significant benefits to NZ farming “as it faces some new and emerging challenges”.
In thanking the Minister of Agriculture for presenting the scholarship at the Sustainability Showcase, NZFEAT chairman Jim Cotman said New Zealand farmers fully deserved “the accolades and endorsement of their efforts that now culminate in this prestigious scholarship”.
He said farmers have beavered away unheralded for years to build sustainable profitable businesses, “being innovative in how they do it and taking an approach that is technically measured. They have a supreme passion for the best possible stewardship of the environment around them”.
Mr Cotman said the Trust believes that positive promotion of the good practice that Ballance Farm Environment Award entrants demonstrate is the most effective means of assisting information transfer between farmers.
“It’s very fitting that the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are generously supported by what is undoubtedly the top agribusiness grouping in NZ. Supporting this is a direct linkage to the regional councils, providing a forum for knowledge exchange and creating a win-win position for all.”
The scholarship recipient is required to complete the study programme by April 30, 2009, and submit a detailed and comprehensive report to NZFEAT by that date.
David Ward, who was among five applicants for the scholarship, will also present his report to MAF Policy.