Business Rural North Autumn 2021

18 | RURAL PEOPLE » Hugh & Sharon Ritchie Strip tillage a tool to Karen Phelps “We are also considering, can we build soil carbon as a mitigation and options for perennial rather than annual crops, which would reduce the need for cultivation.” Hugh Ritchie’s strip tillage unit folded up (above) and at work in maize-sweetcorn configuration (at right). “Proud to support Hugh Ritchie” CHOTE BROS Ltd Bulk and General Transport Fertiliser - Airstrip Delivery Hay and Baleage Grain and Seed Metal Supply and Cartage Wool General Farm Cartage - Machinery Timber etc For a complete bulk and general transport service with great pricing and service. Contact William Chote 027 448 2014 RMD Transport are a family owned and operated company based out of Mt Maunganui. We are farm delivery specialists, servicing the North Island for the past 20 years. We can supply and deliver all your farm requirements with competitive rates and prompt delivery. Call Mark for a quote on 0800 428 528 • Supply & deliver all your bulk farm requirements • Bulk cartage at Competitive rates • Prompt Delivery • Stockfood from all Major Suppliers • Farm delivery specialists North Island wide BULK CARTAGE SPECIALISTS hand, exposes the soil to wind and rain erosion and wastes the carbon stored it. As an example, he says that he uses less than 10 litres of diesel per hectare compared with 40 litres for full cultivation. He sees it as “one of the levers” that farmers could pull to meet climate change legislative requirements. “We are also considering, can we build soil car- bon as a mitigation and options for perennial rather than annual crops, which would reduce the need for cultivation,” he says. Another part of the Ritchies’ strategy to farm profitably and sustainably is to move to double cropping in some instances to obtain two crops in one season, and shift to higher value crops. “We also believe there could be the opportunity to use the provenance story of New Zealand to add value as people want to know where their food has come from. People went back to basics during lockdown and commodities were in demand. So can we create value from the New Zealand story both locally and internationally?” The Ritchies have already started adding value and diversified their business investing in a feed mill to process some of their grain into animal feeds. They have created custom mixes to meet specific demands including various calf meals and beef mixes. They work with a local nutritional company to develop specialised products. Hugh says they obtain a better price for their grains and customers also desire quality assurance such as there are no genetically modified products in their feeds; something the Ritchies can give them. “It’s about creating markets and getting a price premium. It’s another string to our bow.” C hair for the Foundation for Arable Research and Horticulture New Zealand board member Hugh Ritchie believes that seeing change as a positive for his farm rather than a burden could help him to farm more efficiently. He and wife Sharon are looking at opportunities for their land in response to both legislative changes and market demands. The couple, that farm just over 2000ha over two units in the Hawke’s Bay, have a mix of cropping, lamb and beef finishing. They winter up to 10,000 lambs and finish 1500 bulls each year. Hugh says the units work in together and so strict planning and management is essential. The couple say they plan to make incremental changes to their farming system but are happy to be already ahead of the game as they have focused on sustainable production and care of soils for many years. Hugh was a LandWISE Founder, a group that coordinates on-farm research and development around arable cropping, and has been involved from the start and contributed to development of strip tillage. The idea is now well established in New Zealand, he says, yet still only a small percentage of farmers are using it, something he puts down to barriers around perception and change. But with water quality and carbon targets he believes more farmers should consider strip tillage more seriously. It is the only method the Ritchies now use on their farm for row crops, apart from their carrots, due to the specific nature of that crop being unsuited to the method. Hugh’s strip tillage machine uses the concept of zone tillage and he has adapted the unit for maize, squash, beans and sweetcorn crops. A knife is used to cut a slot in the soil and it has a bulb on the end to break up the soil, making a loose crumbly growing medium beneath the surface so that the seeds’ roots can spread. Gathering discs ridge the soil back into the slot made by the knife and a cage roller levels out the surface. Hugh says benefits of strip tillage include stop- ping wind erosion, reducing costs and caring for all types of cropping soils. Using a plough, on the other