Founded by soil scientist and agricultural consultant Graham Shepherd, BioAgriNomics is an independent agricultural and fertiliser advisory company. BioAgriNomics was established in part to help bring clarity to the mixed messages often given to the farming community. The company specialises in linking soil conditioning, plant nutrition, animal health and farm productivity with ‘smart fertilisers’ and smart farm management practices. This includes the development of good soil physical, chemical and biological properties to promote crop and pasture production, pasture quality and stock performance. The natural capital of the farm is maximised to improve farm productivity, food quality and environmental outcomes. As the name implies, BioAgriNomics focuses closely on the biological condition (the engine room) of the soil and economic performance of the farm
Do you use solid fertilisers to grow the plant, or do you use fertilisers to feed the soil to grow the plant?
Photo: courtesy of Rob Tucker
Fertiliser recommendations and farm management practices are developed on the basis of soil and herbage tests, the micro-life of the soil, the physical condition of the soil, pasture quality, stock health, the production performance targets, and the farm budget. A range of ‘smart fertilisers’, both liquid and solid, are sourced from a number of selected providers. BioAgriNomics does not manufacture fertiliser and does not sell a particular line of product, just those products considered to be the most appropriate for a particular farm at a particular point in time.
Many products of today require products of tomorrow to mitigate the effect of today’s products
BioAgriNomics places a lot of emphasis on the use of products and management practices that promote rather than suppress the biological status of the soil, the ‘engine room’ of the soil.
BioAgriNomics also places a lot of importance on pasture quality. Species diverse, nutrient dense, sugar-rich pastures promote animal health and a high palatability, digestibility, and feed conversion efficiency into milk, meat and fibre.
Are your clovers nitrogen fixers or nitrogen feeders?
Key performance indicators (KPI’s) are used to benchmark a farms performance from the outset, and are used to monitor subsequent production, economic and environmental performance. KPI’s for dairy farms include kg DM/ha/yr; pasture Brix and Electrical Conductivity (EC) levels, Forage Value Index, kg MS (milk solids)/cow; kg MS/ha/yr; the cost of producing a kg of MS; the feed conversion efficiency (kg DM/kg MS); percent empties; animal health costs/cow/annum; SSC; Condition score; the Breeding Worth Index, the Production Worth Index, $$ margin per ha, VSA score, Drought Resistance score, etc. In addition, KPI’s for dry stock farms include kg DM/kg live wt gain, Live weight gain/day, Live weight per ha, Lambing percentage, Percentage inductions, Survival rates, Annual cost of the three D's (dipping, dagging and drenching) etc.
Farming is often portrayed as an industry with a high environmental footprint due, in part, to high emissions of nutrients, greenhouse gases, and the loss of soil carbon. While this can be the case, it is often the result of poor advice given to farmers. Farmers today are frequently hamstrung and confused by information overload and mixed messages. A clear understanding of the soil (chemical, physical and biological), plant agronomy and animal nutrition is needed in order to maximise farm productivity and food quality, and minimise the environmental footprint. This is one of the key roles of BioAgriNomics.
A roadmap to reducing a farms environmental footprint
We could reverse a farms negative environmental footprint by simply doing the following:
moving to less soluble forms of fertiliser and fertilisers that provide a quick and slow release of nutrients
encouraging the efficient uptake and utilisation of applied nutrients and nutrients already in the soil by activating the micro-life in the soil
presenting stock with high quality, energy rich pasture with non-elevated nitrate-N and crude protein levels
increasing the clover cover and promoting the N-fixation capability of legumes by ensuring good soil structure, good drought resistance and water-use efficiency of the plant, and ensuring the presence of the key soil nutrients required to ensure good N-fixation
promoting the draw-down of the 78 thousand tonnes of free N in the atmosphere above every hectare of land by promoting rather than suppressing the free-living and associative nitrogen-fixing bacteria and archaea
promoting the sequestration of soil carbon by the draw-down of atmospheric C
ensuring good grazing management and avoiding overgrazing
applying good nutrient budgeting, riparian management and fencing off waterways, and
for the dairy farmer, converting the volatile N and P in effluent ponds to less leachable and less volatilisable organically bound forms by microbial conversion and applying as a liquid folia spray.
The following articles published in the NZ Farmer may be of interest:
High quality, nutrient dense, sugar-rich pasture with a good diversity of plant species. The key is to present the animal with a salad
Strong nitrogen fixing clover plants with many, large, pink clover nodules along the roots. Clover nodules are deep red when split open due to high levels of leghaemoglobin. Soils are also well aerated with optimum levels of key major and trace elements required for nitrogen fixation - see pg 38–39 of the VSA
Our farming systems can have a low environmental footprint
Graham Shepherd spent 27 years as a soil scientist with Soil Bureau (DSIR) and Landcare Research (a Crown Research Institute) and the last 15 years as an independent agricultural adviser. Having seen and worked with many different farming systems and fertiliser products, both in NZ and abroad, Graham has a keen appreciation of what works best. He combines a strong background in soil science with a practical understanding of pastoral grazing and cropping systems, a combination that is rare to find. The soil is like a three legged stool (physical, chemical and biological) and many farms tip over and 'drop the ball' because one or more legs are not adequately addressed.