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FARMING AND AGRICULTURE

It all remains in the soil – super phosphate.

Our family had been on the peat block 8kms west of Te Aroha for fifty years developing it from a barren infertile state with at first cattle, then cattle and sheep, finally in the finish a five hundred dairy cow farm.
 |  Malcolm Campbell  | 

In that period our operations were entirely self-contained, it was never necessary to buy in extra feed or seek off farm grazing for our stock. However at times feed was bought in. Ha, a contradiction, not really, sometimes farmers have the season they dream about, it rains when required, the sun shines as required and with loads of feed the same farmers decide to put the surplus into hay to sell for extra income. Ha, again, when many farmers make this surplus hay, the price falls accordingly with the hay bales at rock bottom prices. My father was a canny trader and bought some of this hay, after all it is taking fertility in the form of hay from one property on to our property. There was some irony in this particular year, as in early autumn a severe flood hit the Hauraki Plains. A call went out for hay to be donated to the worst affected farms and guess what, the first stop saw our donation going back to the farm we had bought it from, only a month or two previously. In 2002 the peat farm after fifty years of development was sold. Not easy to do when our family were the only ones to have ever farmed that land. Because of my interest in aviation an airfield had been developed fortunately long before Resource Management rubbish and over a hundred people learned to fly there. We were fed up with the restrictive nature of the Matamata Piako District Council planning controls and the Dairy Company were also taking the same path with all manner of threats about milking machine details, tanker entrances, turning areas and vat stand requirements. Now the circle is complete, returning to cattle farming with a herd of Angus Breeding Cows a few kms south of Waihi Town. But back to the super phosphate, from 1991 when we ran a trial with super phosphate until 2002 no more was purchased or spread on the peat, it was loaded with the phosphate fertiliser. Somewhat ironically the Waihi farm we purchased was also loaded with phosphate, a ‘total soil test’ revealed the situation. So from 1991 until 2023 a period of 32 years no phosphate has been purchased and regular testing indicates that this scenario is going to last for who knows how long? For many years soil has been treated as somewhere to stand the plants and heave loads of chemical fertiliser at the plants hoping for great results. We should know as for a time we did just that like everybody else. It was not until we sensed the levelling off of pasture production that changes were made. There are now widespread changes being made, not widely accepted by what could be termed the ‘establishment’ the fertiliser companies and the consultants. There are very good reasons to be concerned about the extra heavy use of phosphate fertiliser derived from rock that has damaging impurities.  These cannot be extracted during manufacture and the impurities end up in the soil, your soil. Environment Waikato have this information, but have not publicised it to any extent at all. The question is “why not?”