In 2005 fourteen focus farms were undertaking nitrogen demonstrations and eleven in 2006. These properties were located throughout New Zealand. The focus farm demonstrations sought to identify the economic, production and environmental effects of fertiliser nitrogen use in different geographical farming locations under realistic farming conditions. Some farms were using a whole farm demonstration approach while others were using portions of their properties to compare performance under different fertiliser N use regimes. Almost 30% of the farms were undertaking nitrogen loss measurements as part of their demonstration, and all farms used the OVERSEER Nutrient Budgeting programme to estimate nitrogen losses from their respective systems.
The focus farms were used to investigate the wise use of fertiliser nitrogen on hill country and were mostly MWNZ monitor groups, so were nationally networked. A facilitator from each group liaised closely with the project team to collect and disseminate information, and AgResearch Scientists worked one-on-one with the groups to help set-up the demonstrations and analyse the data. The following map shows the geographical distribution of the farms.
Each focus farm determined what their individual demonstration would be and then submitted progress reports to the project team throughout the year. The demonstrations were reasonably flexible, indicating that focus farm owners were responsible users of nitrogen. For instance, N application rates and timing of application were varied according to the specifics of the particular season. As the results of the Invermay and Ballantrae trials came to hand appropriate adjustments to the demonstrations were implemented.
Time was set aside at focus farm meetings to discuss the N-trial and associated issues, and an annual field day was held so that the wider industry could learn more about the farm and the demonstration results. In addition, all groups came together at the annual project conference in Palmerston North to pool information about their demonstrations and present it to the wider industry, sponsors and Regional Councils. This enabled results from the trials at Ballantrae and Invermay, and from the focus farm demonstrations, to be presented and compared in one forum, and generic conclusions to be drawn