Review finds New Zealand a world leader in land management and climate change research

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A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI's) Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across New Zealand's agriculture and forestry sectors.

The independent review found SLMACC has triggered new research and boosted New Zealand's understanding of the potential impacts and implications of climate change for a range of primary industries, particularly pastoral farming systems and responding to drought.

"Climate change affects every one of New Zealand's land-based producers, from farmers, growers and foresters, to the communities that support them," says Steve Penno, director of investment programmes at MPI.

"New Zealand relies heavily on its natural environment and the primary production it supports.  A warming planet poses challenges and unknowns, so it's vital to invest in research to better understand the land-based sector's future operating environment and, importantly, how a country like ours must adapt."

"SLMACC has contributed heavily towards growing this understanding and enhancing the science capability needed."

"The review found it's creating high-quality research, engaging stakeholders and end-users, growing climate change science capability in New Zealand, enabling international collaborations and supporting researchers early in their careers to build their capability and experience.

"A number of other SLMACC benefits were supported by the review, such as building more accurate knowledge about long-term carbon storage in our forests and providing resources to increase awareness of climate change and practical options for use on-farm."

The SLMACC research programme recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, marking an investment of around $50 million in more than 150 targeted basic, applied and policy research projects.  A number of its projects are showcased in Investing in tomorrow, a booklet released in September 2018. You can download a copy of the booklet and get review reports, including a summary of findings on the SLMACC web page.

The review focused on 4 areas

The independent review of the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change research project focused on 4 areas: adaptation, forestry research, greenhouse gas mitigation, and technology transfer.

Adaptation refers to how our farming systems, livestock management, crops, and horticulture need to change to cope with our changing climate. This is an ongoing process that will continue to evolve as the climate changes around us.

Forestry research has been integral to the SLMACC programme due to the information needed on the role of trees, in particular, plantation forestry, in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions to help New Zealand meet its domestic targets and international obligations.

Mitigation research seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, of which agriculture and livestock produce around half of New Zealand's total output. Efforts in this area are based around 4 key areas: methane inhibitors and vaccines, low emission-generating animals and feeds, reduced nitrous oxide from soil and plants, and farm management interventions.

Technology transfer communicates these newest research findings to farmers, growers, foresters, and other primary industry professionals in a way that can directly influence engagement and encourage lasting change.

The review also considered the value for money of SLMACC-supported projects.  For example, its 'Train the Trainer' project delivered workshops to around 400 rural professionals to share information about climate change and how farmers and growers can adapt their businesses to improve profitability under future climates.  The review estimated future profits of $4.9 million across sheep, beef and dairy farmers and orchardists, from the $0.45 million invested into this project.

The review made a number of recommendations, including increasing engagement with stakeholders to ensure materials are fit for purpose to encourage adoption of improvements on farms and orchards and shifting from more research towards delivering ways to reduce the effects of climate change, and monitoring and evaluating progress.

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