Sustainable Vegetable Systems Update No.12: Programme Update Q2 3rd year.

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Update No. 11 Sustainable Vegetable Systems (SVS)
Programme update, March 2023: Quarter 2 report, 3rd year.

Latest activities

  • Plant & Food Research (PFR) continue to collect and analyse data from the intensive field experiments in Workstream 1. Ryegrass seed crops at the Lincoln site have been harvested and left in pasture, while the cauliflower crop in Hawke’s Bay has been harvested sequentially following commercial standards.
  • Regional monitoring in Workstream 2 is ongoing. Two onion crops and one pea crop has been harvested, while two potato crops, a broccoli, butternut squash, and a watermelon crop continue to grow at the other monitoring sites (as at the end of December).
  • Development of the farmer facing tool as part of Workstream 3 is accelerating, with an excel based concept demonstrator being trialed with growers across the country to develop case studies and inform further development of the tool. Meanwhile, the software company Rezare has been contracted to develop the finalised web-app for general release to the industry in July.
  • Workstream 4 dissemination work has also picked up the pace in preparation for the release of the tool. This dissemination work includes greater grower engagement with the tool, findings of which will be incorporated into publicly available case studies. Growers across the country will be contacted by FOLKL in May to participate in tool feedback sessions. NZ Grower articles continue to be written to inform the industry of programme developments.

Workstream 1 trial results
The two Canterbury trial rotations are currently in pasture following the harvest of the ryegrass seed. Nitrogen content of the harvested crop is currently being analysed.
Irrigation was applied to both crops at two different rates reflecting different management practices. Good management practice, replacing soil moisture lost through evapotranspiration, was simulated by applying 165 mm of irrigation. Additional irrigation to a total of 215 mm was applied as a separate treatment to simulate exceeding field capacity, to stimulate leaching, though no drainage events occurred during this period. In addition to these treatments there was approximately 139 mm of rainfall during the October – December 2022 period.
Nitrogen was applied at planting at rates of 0, 15, 30 or 60 kg N/ha, with up to three side dressings topping this up to total rates of 0, 60, 120 or 240 kg N/ha.
Rotation 3 in Hawke’s Bay was planted in a ryegrass catch crop which is currently well established. As a catch crop it has received no nitrogen fertiliser.
With grower guidance, the cauliflower crop in Rotation 4 was progressively harvested over a three-week period in October. Following harvest a ryegrass crop was sown for hay. Across both Hawke’s Bay rotations there were 10 leachate collections due to high rainfall – totaling 573 mm between July and December 2022.

Figure 1. Ryegrass at the PFR research farm in Lincoln.

Figure 2. Different nitrogen treatments in Rotation 1 at Lincoln in November 2022. N1 received no nitrogen fertiliser while N4 received the most nitrogen (180 kg N/ha) at the time this picture was taken.

Figure 3. Collection of leachate samples from the ryegrass crop in Hawkes’s Bay. Clockwise from top left figure: placing vacuum on suction cups at 60 cm and 120 cm soil depth to extract soil solution. Vacuum is placed on the suction cups for 1 hour. Tubes are identified depending on depth and prepared to release suction. After suction is released solution flows into the collecting vials. The last image shows the vials with soil solution samples. Vials are then sealed and frozen until laboratory analysis can be completed.

Model development
Data from the trial sites is now being used to run modelling simulations and compare observed and modelled data. The SVS model is also being tested against the APSIM tool for evaluation.
Coding to transform the model into the finalised tool is underway. This has subsequently been iterated into an N balance model. The continued development of the SVS tool will require parallel development of user interfaces, collation of model coefficients and refinement of model code. The model can be updated without affecting the concurrent interface development and testing.
A second prototype has since been developed to enable tool testing with growers around the country. This prototype has a Microsoft Excel interface for ease of sharing and useability, with the model code sitting in the back end.
Feedback from use of this second prototype with growers, and analysis of Workstream 1 and 2 data, will be used to finalise the model in preparation for the development of the final user interface by Rezare, which will take the form of a web-application.
Outstanding jobs to do for model development (not including interface development) are the inclusion of the HWEON test method (hot water test) for predicting soil organic matter mineralisation, the inclusion of a model for predicting residue mineralisation, and the completion of the table of crop-specific coefficients.
Upcoming developments
Over the remainder of 2023 the intensive trials in Workstream 1 will all conclude. This is also the last year for regional monitoring, though some additional work may continue into 2024 depending on the crop rotation at each site.
The programme has now fully moved into the model and tool-development phase of work, with upcoming priorities including finalising the model and developing the user interface for the grower facing tool.
Finalising the model will involve the incorporation of soil leaching and residue breakdown predictions, as well as including any new learnings from the regional monitoring work.
To assist with this, work on grower case studies will continue to collect feedback and assess model functionality. Understanding the baseline level of practice for making nitrogen management decisions is also a key focus, with this data being collected through conversations with the case study growers and FOLKL’s grower interviews.
A Risk Scorecard currently under development by Horizons Regional Council is also being trialled with case study growers to further develop an understanding of where the outdoor vegetable industry currently sits on a risk management scale. This scorecard consists of two sections, nitrogen fertiliser management and soil health. Each section consists of several scored questions, the sum of the scores for each section then determines an operation’s overall risk ranking. The risks associated with nitrogen fertiliser can be offset with a nitrogen budget, facilitated through the SVS tool, and soil nitrogen testing. Soil health is based around the length of fallow periods and offsetting these risks using cover crops. This risk scorecard approach is very practice driven, rather than the previous fixation on an Overseer leaching number.
Workstream 4 is about to record an SVS podcast series, of 6 episodes. We look forward to sharing these in late autumn.

SVS is funded by Ministry for Primary Industries, led and co-funded by Potatoes New Zealand in collaboration with the Vegetable Research & Innovation Board and Horticulture NZ.
SVS is a $7.5 million dollar national project over 4 years and is multi-workstream aimed at providing the data and subsequent modelling of vegetable nutrient uptake and nitrogen leaching.
Overall SVS programme aims

  • To maintain vegetable and potato industries’ social license to operate
  • To protect the ability to grow, process and sell, while meeting environmental standards
  • To ensure industry access to land, water and nutrients through national, regional and farm programmes in order to achieve industry growth.

SVS Programme Communications

  • All SVS Updates here
  • SVS Report and background info here
  • SVS videos here

Ngā mihi nui,

from the SVS team.