For the first time in nearly 30 years, the latest in grassland research is coming to Whanganui this November.

And local farmers are being urged to make the most of a rare chance to rub shoulders on home ground with those at the leading edge of New Zealand pastoral science and technology.

They will also have ample opportunity to get out and see what other innovative primary producers are doing to make the most of their land, from steep hill blocks to coastal sand country.

Organisers of the 79th NZ Grassland Association (NZGA) conference have this year included a special incentive for farmers to make it easier for them to get to the event - instead of registering for the full two and a half days, as is normally the case, they can choose a one day registration.


Foxton dairy farmer Noel Johnston, who chairs the local organising committee, says anyone with an interest in sustainable, profitable pastoral farming systems will find something of value in either the technical papers at the conference, the field trips or both.

Noel's son and daughter in law Duncan and Clare Johnston, who farm at Waverley and who are also members of the organising committee, agree: "Whanganui's farming environment is unique in NZ. This is a chance for farmers and scientists to share our knowledge and learn from each other."

And it's only the second such chance in the conference's history - Whanganui last hosted the NZGA a generation ago, back in 1989.

Key topics for the three half-day indoor sessions include new technologies and tools such as differential fertiliser application, alternative pasture species and the forage value index, as well as the role of the Environmental Protection Authority.

Coastal Spring Lamb and Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation will also share their perspectives as local producers.

Noel Johnston says each of the conference field trips focuses on use of innovation and technology to enhance production on challenging country, some of which was badly damaged during the notorious storm of 2004.

Properties visited will include two Rangitikei hill country enterprises - Morrison Farming, where successful stock water reticulation and farm environment planning are of particular interest; and Rathmoy Farm, which uses specialist forages for large scale lamb finishing.

At OB Group's Santoft Farm at Bulls, the focus turns to dairy, sand country development and carefully selected forage species.

A veteran of close to 20 NZGA conferences, Noel Johnston is keen for other farmers to benefit - as he has over the years - from its combination of pastoral science and practical on-farm innovation.

"The field trips are always a great eye opener, and it's also a good chance to mix with researchers and farmers from other parts of the country."

The NZGA conference will be held at Whanganui Racecourse from 7-9 November. Register for both the full event and the special one day farmer option at