Government, Ngāi Tahu farming trial could determine New Zealand's environmental and economic future

A farming experiment underway in the South Island may determine the most environmentally and economically sound future for one of our largest industries.

The multi-million-dollar Government and iwi project will compare old-school farming methods with new ones.

The cows may soon be coming home to cleaner and greener pastures.

Ngāi Tahu and the Government have signed up to a seven-year trial of regenerative farming.

"Rotational grazing, direct drilling and diverse species are some of the core principles of regenerative farming," Ngāi Tahu farming general manager Will Burrett told Newshub.

The trial will compare the side-by-side dairy farms to assess the environmental impacts of their practices.

Burrett told Newshub: "We're using lysimeters, we're using greenhouse gas emission capturing devices up and downwind from the cows."

Wheels are already in motion, the water beneath the ground is monitored for nitrate levels from 40 different sites.

Burrett said they have already noticed a difference in nitrate levels.

"We started high 30, low 40s and we've dropped down now to 35kgs nitrate loss per hectare."

One 330-hectare farm in North Canterbury will use traditional farming, the other 286-hectare farm will trial regenerative methods.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor told Newshub if this trial works it will beneficial for everyone.

"If we can follow that through into the marketplace and get the premiums for regenerative products we've seen, this is beneficial for all of New Zealand."

An $11.5 million research programme with the goal not only of economic benefits but benefits for mana whenua.

"The mana whenua aspirations that we've got to challenge our conventional system design and live up to their values of ultimate kaitiakitanga for the land," Burrett said.

Providing for the land now in the hopes it can provide a better way of farming for the future.