Feeding the world’s growing population

New Zealand’s reputation as a quality food producer is growing.

Optimising food production

Over the next 50 years farmers around the world will need to produce more food than has been grown over the past 10,000 years.

Best use from a limited resource

Fertiliser helps farmers produce food efficiently by replenishing the soil. But fertiliser needs to be used responsibly.

Responsible and sustainable nutrient management

The Fertiliser Association invests in research and tools to ensure farm profitability while minimising nutrient losses to the environment.

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand promotes and encourages responsible and scientifically-based nutrient management.

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Response to Government review of Overseer


Wednesday 11 August 2021

Delivering a nutrient management tool that works for farmers

Creating tools to assist farmers to make the right choice on nutrient management is a long and sometimes expensive process. The Fertiliser Association is committed to a journey of enabling New Zealand farmers to meet their goals for profitability and heightened environmental responsibility.

Overseer is the most widely used decision support tool used in New Zealand farming. Over 12,000 farms have used the tool to make real decisions about nutrient management on-farm, so that they can have confidence in balancing production goals with their environmental responsibilities.

The Fertiliser Association partnered with MPI and AgResearch to develop Overseer as a trusted on-farm strategic management tool, using the best of New Zealand science to give farmers confidence in making good decisions on nutrient management.

Having the regulator, the national science organisation and industry in the partnership brings robustness and credibility to Overseer. It means that the three parties are committed to working together to deliver a tool that works for farmers.

MPI Review

MPI has just published a review of Overseer, that highlights some concerns they have over the use of Overseer for regulatory use.

"No model can fully reflect what is happening in a real-world situation, but they can still be extremely useful," said Dr Vera Power, Chief Executive of the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand.

"Our view is that continuing to evolve and develop the model is the answer for New Zealand farmers."

"There are recommendations in the report that could be valuable in terms of ongoing development and improvement of the current Overseer model. The reviewers did not fully consider the regulatory environment in which the model is applied, or the practicality of its application as a tool that supports farmer decision making."

"The New Zealand public is clear on their environmental aspirations and supportive of a farming sector that is moving forward, so using tools like Overseer to support the journey ahead is critical," added Dr Power.

Millions of dollars have been spent by the partners-including the Crown-to improve the model and there will always be more to do.

That development has been guided by an independent science oversight group panel and supported by over one hundred peer-reviewed papers and tested through the Environment Court.

As farmers work hard to both understand and meet objectives for water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, they need to have confidence in the tools they use to make their decisions.

"Overseer needs to evolve as further mitigation technologies are developed," says Dr Power.

How the model is used by farmers

As compliance with regional councils' regulations becomes more challenging, farmers and their advisers and consultants use Overseer to assist with nutrient budgets, nutrient management and scenario planning. It assists farmers to manage nutrients well by understanding the likely impact of proposed farm system changes on nutrient cycling. This includes understanding of potential nutrient loss.

This has been core to managing the potential impacts of agriculture in New Zealand's effects-based regulatory regime, which focusses on the impacts of the proposed operation of a farm system.

How the model works

Overseer is made up of a set of science models and components that work together to model nutrient flows including greenhouse gas emissions for a farm system. It focuses on the aspects of management that are under a farmer's control and has been designed so that it uses information that is directly available to farm managers, supported by default information from national databases.

"A model is necessary because monitoring actual nutrient loss on each and every farm is impractical, guessing is unacceptable and blanket rules on inputs are undesirable," said Dr Power.

Complex simulation models used by researchers will be more accurate in describing what is happening on a single paddock.

Unfortunately, such models do not translate to the reality of a farm system where they can be used by the farmers and their advisers who have both the data and the need to use the data to make real decisions.

Models such as Overseer are useful in helping to think about the farm system, what can be done to improve and which innovations support improved management.

"This is the basis of the journey we all need to make so that New Zealand farms can meet their goals for profitability and heightened environmental responsibility," says Dr Power.

For further information on Overseer, including FAQs and a link to the Overseer website, see here.


About the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand (FANZ)

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand promotes and encourages responsible and scientifically-based nutrient management. Managing nutrients well is in all New Zealanders' interests, both for economic benefit and environmental management.

To promote good management practices, we develop training programmes, fund research, participate in government and local body working groups, and work closely with other organisations in the agricultural sector.

Founded over 70 years ago, the Association is funded by member companies to address issues of common public good. Members include Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited and Ravensdown Limited who manufacture, distribute and market fertilisers sold in New Zealand.

For more information, please contact Dr Vera Power, Chief Executive of the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand at Vera@fertiliser.org.nz or phone 027 244 3739.

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand and Dairy NZ funded development of the Nutrient Management Adviser Certification Programme (NMACP). This industry-wide certification aims to ensure that advisers have the learning, experience and capability to give sound nutrient advice.

Find out more

25 January 2022

Final-year Lincoln University PhD candidate Kirstin Deuss is the 2021 recipient of the NZ Society of Soil Science/Fertiliser Association of NZ Postgraduate Bursary Award.

The award recognises the efforts and present (or likely) contribution to New Zealand soil science arising from a doctorate study. It carries a $5,000 one-year stipend.

Kirstin holds a BSC in Biomedical Science from Victoria University of Wellington and an MSC in Horticultural Science from the Technical University of Munich, Free University of Bozen (Italy) and the University of Bologna.

Her postgraduate research has seen her lead a long-term field study on soil and catchment hydrology in Southland. The findings will help understand the role mole and tile drains play in Southland’s unique landscape.

“I’m thrilled to have been selected as the recipient of the NZSSS Fertiliser Association Postgraduate Bursary, it is an honour that I will cherish for the rest of my career,” says Kirstin. “I love working with soils and my career objective is to apply my field, research and management skills towards supporting the sustainable management of New Zealand’s soil resources.”

“My PhD has been challenging but also so rewarding, and this award is a real confidence boost as I prepare to start my new career at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in February. I wouldn't be where I am without the support of my many great mentors, friends and colleagues, who have given me so much of their time and energy to help turn ideas into reality and put it all into the written word!

 “It's truly been the best experience of my life and I am really looking forward to where it is going to take me.”

 Kirstin was nominated by Peter Almond, Associate Professor, Department of Soil and Physical Sciences at Lincoln University. He described her to the judging panel as a “highly adept scientist capable of complex quantitative analysis of soil-hydrological systems”.

“I think she is a deserving recipient.  The prestige of the award would further her goal of securing a position working professionally in soil science in New Zealand so that she can contribute to environmental sustainability of our primary industries.”

Fertiliser Association chief executive Vera Power described Kirstin’s research as “hugely important”.

“The more we can understand what’s happening in our soils and catchments, the better placed our primary sector will be to improve farm management, all while protecting the environment.”  

24 November 2021

FANZ has made a submission to the Ministry for the Environment on Te hau mārohi ki anamata - Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future

The primary sector has a key role to play in helping achieve global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining food security. This requires low-emission production systems, with increased efficiencies and the use of new mitigation technologies. 

Investment in the development and adoption of new technologies requires a clear regulatory pathway to market. We will need to work internationally with trading nations and also locally with existing qualified networks within the agricultural community for the extension and adoption of new mitigations.  

You can read our submission in full here.

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