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Beetles on a roll

A dung beetle. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
[email protected]

They may not be The Beatles, but these insects are causing just as much of a sensation among farmers looking to improve their soil productivity and water quality.

More than rolling away cowplop, dung beetles play a crucial role in managing dairy effluent and protecting waterways from farm run-off.

In partnership with Dung Beetle Innovations Ltd, the Greater Wellington Regional Council is offering a second region-wide release of the beetles to Wairarapa farmers.

Four species of non-native dung beetle are offered through the discounted package scheme to encourage on-farm take up.

Carterton dairy farmers Ray and Lyn Craig were quick to cotton on to the scheme in 2016.

“I was looking for non-invasive ways to control pests and improve soil condition in our pasture, and dung beetles are cost-effective – they just work away, they’re very cheap workers,” he said.

He said the beetles’ tunnelling promoted soil aeration, root growth, improved drainage, and better water quality.

“I’m a very results-based farmer.

“Ultimately, what I’m looking for from dung beetles is better soil, extra grass, and higher productivity, without too much cost in time and money.”

They shouldn’t be considered a leap into the unknown as they had been on his farm for a number of years, he said.

“Investment in dung beetles isn’t a punt, the benefits are well documented.”

Regional council deputy chairwoman and Wairarapa representative Adrienne Staples said it was part of a drive to improve freshwater quality in the region.

“Nutrient build-up and run-off is a key priority and the dung beetle option is one we are happy to support.

“We were encouraged by our first offer to farmers, which resulted in 7350 hectares of land in our region under coverage from dung beetles following farmer investment.

“We’re now making the offer again and we expect lots of interest.”

She said there was a lot of pressure on farmers to improve the health of waterways and this was one solution.

Packages are discounted by 50 per cent within priority catchments in the Wellington region and by 20 per cent elsewhere.

The first of this season’s beetles will be sent to farms from mid-December 2019.

Two workshops have also been scheduled for farmers to learn more about dung beetles.

The first will be held in Kahutara on November 27 and another at Mangatarere on November 28.

  • More information can be found online at gw.govt.nz/dung-beetles

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