The partnership between Fonterra, Nestlé and DairyNZ will further increase the trail of including plantain in cows’ diet to reduce nitrogen concentration in their urine


Fonterra, Nestlé and DairyNZ to reduce nitrogen leaching. (Credit: wernerdetjen from Pixabay.)

Fonterra, Nestlé and DairyNZ have teamed up to expand a new plantain trial to help improve waterways and to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in New Zealand.

The partnership has agreed to use certain varieties of plantain into cows’ diet which have shown to reduce nitrogen concentration in their urine that leaches through the soil and into groundwater.

As part of its Tararua Plantain Project, which DairyNZ has been leading in North Island, where farmers have been growing the leafy herb for their cows. The project is also being supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Now, Fonterra and Nestlé will also involve the project to expand its further through additional funding and sharing their respective expertise.

The collaboration is claimed to speed up the use of Ecotain, a blend of environmentally functional plantain cultivars developed by seed company Agricom. Presently, 50 Tararua farms have started to use plantain, through DairyNZ’s Tararua Plantain Project.

Nestlé, which is a customer of Fonterra, is claimed to have been keen on the project, as it recently had made commitments around sustainability.

The funding from Fonterra and Nestlé is also expected to increase the use of Ecotain among the farms and include more farms in the trial, maximising the benefits.

Fonterra on-farm excellence director Charlotte Rutherford said: “We’re all about finding ways to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand has a thriving environment and a thriving farming economy. We can achieve more by partnering with others, so it’s great to join forces with DairyNZ and Nestlé.

“This is helping to speed up the adoption of plantain by farmers. Ultimately it could be a real game-changer to reduce nitrogen from cows and help mitigate nitrous oxide emissions.”

In studies conducted by DairyNZ, Agricom, Lincoln University, Massey University and AgResearch, it is claimed that Ecotain can significantly reduce nitrogen leaching.

Preliminary studies also indicate that Ecotain has the potential to lower on-farm GHG emissions through the reduction of nitrous oxide.

The project is also focused on improving the understanding of how farmers can implement Ecotain, through their engagement in workshops, events and a national farmer network to extend knowledge.

In October this year, Fonterra has agreed to sell its China farms for $369m after successfully developing the farms alongside local partners.