In September 2022 Leftfield Innovation (LFI) commenced a research project funded through the Our Land and Water ‘Rural Professionals Fund’ to investigate the potential for milling wheat to ‘scavenge’ nitrogen from the soil as part of an integrated farm system.
Prior work from LFI had identified the potential to grow domestic production of milling wheat in New Zealand, and particularly in the North Island, which could reduce the need for imported milling wheat, increasing the economic opportunities for New Zealand growers, while also improving the country’s food security. LFI is seeking to increase the North Island milling wheat programme from 40ha to 600ha by 2025. Should the trials prove successful, spring wheat would also aid soil heath and improve environmental outcomes as part of a farm rotation system.
LFI is field-trialling in two North Island locations - as part of a pasture-to-wheat system in the Wairarapa; and within a vegetable crop system in Ohakune.
In addition to LFI, the project team also involved representatives from Lincoln University and The AgriBusiness Group.
While the growing season was plagued by inclement weather, with an exceptionally wet spring and summer period throughout the North Island, the wheat performed remarkably well despite the conditions, and showed exceptional nitrogen uptake with very promising results overall.