Protecting farm waterways when cultivating

By: Media Release

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is advising farmers cultivating paddocks for next winter’s greenfeed crops to leave a buffer zone on areas bordering any waterway.

Under the ORC’s new water quality rules, measures must be put in place when disturbing land to control sediment runoff into waterways. Having no effective sediment control measure is a prohibited activity.

ORC manager community liaison and education Nicola McGrouther said where there is no filtering margin such as rank grass, rainfall and its resultant runoff over grazed paddocks readily transports sediment and contaminants into waterways. This can result in the loss of valuable topsoil, as well as increasing levels of nutrients, bacteria, and pathogens polluting streams and rivers.

A buffer zone of long grasses, fenced off with electric fences and left ungrazed, provides an effective trap within the paddock to maintain water quality during subsequent winter grazing.

"Farmers need to put in buffer zones wide enough to minimise sediment runoff. The width needed will vary depending on the slope, contours, soil, and buffer vegetation," Mrs McGrouther said.

A buffer of at least 3-4m is recommended for very flat land, while steeper land will need a considerably larger buffer to trap animal waste and sediment runoff.

Keeping an eye on farm waterways while the land is bare is important to ensure the buffer is effective.

By building these measures into their farm management, farmers should be compliant with the Otago Water Plan and will be taking a practical step to support good water quality in waterways.

"If farmers follow some simple practices as they cultivate for next year’s greenfeed crops, they will substantially reduce their impact on water quality as well as ensure environmentally-sound grazing during the 2016 winter," Mrs McGrouther said.

"It’s a win-win for the farmers, their stock, and the waterways," she said.

For the latest farming news, subscribe to Farm Trader magazine here.

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Farm Trader's free newsletter or liking us on Facebook