Sheryl Haitana

Fonterra suppliers will receive a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report this spring which will give them a modelled estimate on their farm emissions, including a breakdown on methane and nitrous oxide.

The figure, derived from the information provided by farmers in their annual farm diary records, will give farmers a starting point to work from in getting their onfarm emissions down, Fonterra’s general manager for sustainable dairying Mat Cullen says.

The intention is farmers will be able to understand the sources of their emissions, which will mean that they can start thinking about what may be required to reduce emissions in the future.

“The information we can put in there can give farmers an indication of what the drivers are and what they can possibly look to change,” Mat says.

‘The information we can put in there can give famers an indication of what the drivers are and what they can possibly look to change.’

Ideally Fonterra would like to include benchmarking of emissions profiles, which keeps it more relevant, he says.

In December 2018, the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) found that 98% of farmers do not know their emissions and more than 40% did not know how to reduce emissions on their farm.

A Fonterra pilot of 113 farms produced reports for the pilot farms in the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons. Feedback from the farmers within the pilot was exceedingly positive, with over 90% of participants saying that the reports improved their understanding of biological greenhouse gases on farm.

To model a farm’s emissions profile, Fonterra can either use farm diary records and run key metrics through the Agriculture Inventory Model (AIM), or alternatively, farmers give Fonterra access to their Overseer file. The AIM model has an R value of .96 when it’s aligned with Overseer, Mat says.“It has virtually the same emissions estimate without the massive information burden and cost, You have five data points instead of the complicated matrix of data required to complete a nutrient budget (in Overseer).”

The key metrics used in the AIM model from farm dairy records are herd size, total production, replacement rate, nitrogen fertilizer applied and supplementary feed bought. Fonterra is still working through how the emissions report will be displayed to farmers, but they want to keep it clear and concise, Mat says.

A lot of farmers are still trying to get their heads around emissions and Fonterra wants to keep it as simple as possible in its report to farmers, Mat says.

It will likely be separate to the Nitrogen Risk Scorecard, although there is a lot of overlap in how onfarm practices can influence both the emissions profile and the Nitrogen Risk Scorecard. “The Nitrogen Risk Scorecard focuses on purchased N surplus. If you’re focusing on that as an efficiency measure, you’ll have a positive impact on your emissions as well.”

A lot of water is yet to go under the bridge when it comes to final regulation in this space in regard to how quickly farmers will have to reduce emissions.

As a sector, dairy has had more experience in demonstrating accountability for its environmental footprint (including emissions) due to previous accord commitments and processor-led targets and support programmes; such as Fonterra’s Co-Operative Difference, Mat says.

It is important the dairy industry leads others in the primary sector on this journey so all of NZ Agriculture can work together to meet new environmental standards.