There is another pandemic sweeping the nation.
It is a new, exceedingly virulent virus which is likely to do more damage to the New Zealand economy in the long term than Covid-19, if left unchecked.
I am calling for an immediate lockdown – total elimination is essential to prevent New Zealand agriculture slipping back to the dark ages.
It is coded RA20 but the full medical name is "Regenerative Agriculture 2020".
RA20 is believed to have originated in the Great Plains in America. Just how it leapt the animal-human divide is not clear.
It quickly spread to the Australian Outback and then hopped the ditch to New Zealand.
Homo sapiens: sub-species pseudo, appear to most vulnerable, whether farmers, soil consultants or fertiliser salesmen, and indeed journalists.
Interestingly, like Covid-19, it is particularly severe on those weakened by other complicating factors.
Some victims are known to have no knowledge of the important values of the Enlightenment – science, evidence, logic and reason – which lifted mankind out of the Dark Age, and for which ordinary folk have to thank for the tremendous improvement in the human condition over the last two to three centuries.
Another cohort includes those who know little about the principles of soil fertility, pasture management and animal husbandry.
Of immediate concern for the authorities is a cluster centred on Lincoln University.
A group of about 200 otherwise healthy folk recently attended the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group conference where unfortunately they were infected.
The attendees were told by an Australian (confirmed case) that RA20 is a whole ecosystem approach to farming which mimics natural processes and that farmers should "basically go with whatever nature did."
There was no suggestion that this might result in the destruction of their livelihood as nature goes about doing what it does – reverting back the "native" ecosystem.
Thankfully a local farmer fleshed this out saying that "his philosophy is just to throw a bit of everything edible at this fields and discover what will grow lushly."
The end result, attendees were told, is: "A confection of greenery twisting and climbing over itself in a bid to reach the sun."
This was reinforced by pictures of people wading waist high through nature's offering.
Armed with this, the attendees were told "that Aussie farmers who have embraced RA are much more profitable than conventional farmers."
"They were getting 100 per cent yield on 20 per cent of the inputs."
This is of course entirely plausible to those with even a mild dose of RA20.
And what about the concept of sustainability, one of the great pillars of contemporary philosophy, and apply it to soil nutrients.
Soils do not make nutrients – they store them.
Nutrients removed from the farm in the products, must be replaced. If they are not the soil fertility will decline. Adding nutrients as fertiliser is thus important part of sustainability equation.
However, RA20-infected people believe they are above this "scientific" (read "man-made") fact. They appear to believe they can farm without fertiliser.
One seriously infected RA farmer reported that his fertiliser inputs have plummeted from 125 tonnes per year to about 2 tonnes.
As one AR20-infected consultant expressed it, "The cycle of life is producing its own fertiliser."
This type of romantic thinking was prevalent in the dark ages when witches and hobgoblins were abundant and alchemy was all the rage.
In fairness to those with the RA20 infection, there is one forage plant – clover - that farmers use in abundance, which "produces its own fertiliser".
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Dr Doug Edmeades on The Country below:
I refer here to white clover fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere.
We know that RA20 victims like this process – it is after all. the "natural" way to build up soil N and hence soil organic matter levels. But then somehow the RA20 virus kicks-in.
White clover plants hate being shaded, a consequence of their prostrate growth habit. But RA-infected brains emphasise the importance of letting pastures grow lanky (Remember: "A confection of greenery twisting and climbing over itself in a bid to reach the sun") and they do not approve of hard grazing.
This they argue will allow the plant roots to go deep, minimising the effects of droughts and taking carbon-storage deep into the soil. But this divined plan will minimise clover growth and hence the amount of clover N fixed.
Perhaps an unintentional desire to "cut off their nitrogen nose to spite their production face".
I have always been sceptical when people use flash words, or more emphatically, their derivative acronyms, to tell their story.
Heard of AMP - Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing? RA infected brains are full of it. AMP is nothing more than a smart-arsed acronym for rotational grazing.
If this is what defines RA then every pastoral farmer in New Zealand is big-time into RA.
And they have done this not because it is a fad but because they have, in their own interests and for the good of the nation, applied science in the farm.
So let's close the borders on this RA nonsense before further damage is done to our hard earned science-based pastoral agricultural system.
- Soil scientist and author Dr Doug Edmeades is the managing director of agKnowledge Ltd.