''Hitting the play button'' will begin shortly for a research project that will look at developing best practice methods for wintering sheep on crop.

New Zealand Landcare Trust was given about $383,000 from the Sustainable Farming Fund for its three-year ''understanding the impacts of sheep winter grazing'' research project, which was launched on July 1 this year.

The project will ''quantify nutrient, sediment and faecal losses from sheep winter crop grazing''.

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The trust's Invermay-based Otago regional co-ordinator Craig Simpson, said the project had several other co-funding partners including AgResearch, the Otago Regional Council, Environment Southland and Horizons Regional Council.

''Even the greater Wellington regional council is looking to get involved and we will see how that pans out,'' Simpson said.

''Next year will be the first winter and there are three winters in the trials.''

The project is similar to the Pastoral 21 programme that was run for the dairy industry several years ago, which developed good crop-grazing management practices.

New Zealand Landcare Trust Otago regional co-ordinator Craig Simpson. Photo / File
New Zealand Landcare Trust Otago regional co-ordinator Craig Simpson. Photo / File

''We are primarily focused on the environmental impacts and will be looking at run-off and contaminant loss from forage crop paddocks.

''We are assuming there will be less of an impact with lighter animals and less damage.''

A steering group is to be established within the next few weeks and then they intended to choose farm sites for the programme and then by the end of October, would be looking for farmers who might be interested in being involved in the study and who use winter crops for sheep in winter.

Participating farmers would be prepared to have people on their property and to talk to media as the project required significant extension work ''to get the message out there.''

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He said there were a few things that needed to be in place and fine-tuned ''before we hit play,'' he said.