Dung beetles improve Wairarapa soil

  • 08/10/2013

Hundreds of European dung beetles have been released on a farm in the Wairapapa as part of a project to deal with the country's copious amount of cow manure.

The insects use animal faeces for food and reproduction, and it's hoped that process will help boost pasture productivity.

It's a feast few animals would choose to dine on, but for the dung beetles, it's a banquet. Intensive farming means more dung is produced than the land can handle, fouling waterways and ruining pasture.

"What we're doing is completing a natural cycle really, because you've got all this livestock introduced onto this pasture, and all this dung produced, but nothing getting rid of the dung on a scale that would be deemed useful," says scientist Dr Shaun Forgie.

The dung beetles burrow into the manure, then further into the soil, taking the dung and the nutrients with them.

Experts say that boosts soil fertility and makes grass more drought-tolerant.

"If we can get the dung beneath the soil surface and into the soil itself, that's a lot better than going off into the waterways," says Dr Forgie.

Today's culmination of a $1.5 million project was the first major release of dung beetles in the North Island since they were trialled in Kaipara 15 years ago. That was on John Pearce's farm. He says the benefits for his sheep have been huge, because dung beetles mean no flies.

"We don't have to crutch, dip, vaccinate," says Mr Pearce. "They only come in once a year and that's it."

The beetles are currently being mass reproduced in Christchurch and in Auckland, but it's hoped that once they make the Wairarapa their home, it will become a breeding centre for the rest of the country.

For now the beetles will hunker down before they're expected to breed in six to eight weeks.

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source: newshub archive