Primary industries based on the land are at the heart of Southland’s economy. Venture Southland is committed to maintaining and making available resources that contribute to sustainable land use.
Crops for Southland
Crops for Southland (CFS) was born out of a need recognised in 1994. The Southland District Council and associated groups recognised that developing alternative land uses was crucial for Southland, and New Zealand, to maintain its edge in the agricultural sector. Accordingly, the Crops for Southland Incorporated Society was established and operated through until 2012, by which time major changes in the farming scene had rendered it redundant and it was liquidated.
Crops for Southland obtained its core funding for day-to-day activities from Venture Southland. It also had its own Board of Directors with members from a wide range of business, agricultural and horticultural backgrounds. CFS was ideally placed to facilitate and foster new developments in the agricultural sector.
By using Project Groups of expert people keen to work on specific projects, CFS developed trial and demonstration sites at a New Crop Centre (now closed) on McIvor Road in Invercargill and fostered a number of product groups and enterprise developments in southern New Zealand. These included the bio-oil and ornamental flower crop industries, hazelnut growers, Farmers Markets, and other specialist grower groups.
Crops for Southland adopted a three-pronged approach to achieving its objectives:
Research projects were selected that offer a recognisable competitive advantage for Southland, that were market led, with interest and participation by proponents or partnerships. They were usually externally funded.
- Technology Transfer
Crops for Southland used a range of techniques to get information out to the general public. This included maintaining a New Crops Centre as a place of excellence where a range of crops could be demonstrated, publishing useful information as Crop Data Sheets via the Internet, conducting seminars and public meetings, and facilitating grower-based discussion groups.
- On-Farm Support
As well as running a general technology transfer programme, more specialist consultation on specific crops was available to those interested. This included one-on-one visits from staff.
A feature of Southland’s agricultural sector is the availability of reliable soil and climate data, which has resulted from a detailed Topoclimate survey of 800,000 hectares of the region’s available farmland and microclimates. The resulting maps and database of soil information provide essential information for land optimisation throughout Southland. Geographic Information Systems and online information systems allow detailed soil and climate reporting to be provided down to the individual farm level. Topoclimate research has identified microclimates which allow land users to grow a wider range of crops and pastures, which in turn improves productivity.
The climate component of the Topoclimate Survey of Southland involved the placement of temperature dataloggers at approximately 3,000 locations throughout the region measuring air temperatures and, at some sites, soil temperatures for a year. The data were then processed by statistical comparison against the nearest long term weather station to produce a synthetic thirty-year temperature record for the datalogger location.
Climatologists then interpreted these data to produce Growing Degree Day Maps, which estimate the zones of heat units available for plant growth. The ultimate aim was to recognise the thousands of microclimates in the landscape and optimise land use by matching crops to microclimates.
An interactive version of the Topoclimate survey maps is available on the Environment Southland website. Customised maps and interpretation services are available from Venture Southland.