There’s been a lot of chatter about Ecotain and its benefits to the environment so Al and Juddy have jumped on to cover how it works to help solve some of the environmental problems that farmers are facing.
They will also talk about how you can get it to work on your farm and how you can use it to achieve the functionality that may be required going forward.
“It’s pretty exciting science when you can find four separate functions, all working towards a common goal.”
Juddy In this particular episode, Allister, what are we going to be talking about?
Al Oh thanks Glenn, as we cover Ecotain we're going to discover how we came about doing the research that discovered an element of what's going on with the Ecotain product. And we're going to cover what is the problem? How does it work? And how do you get it to work on farm? We're going to discuss some of the limitations around it, and some of the discussion also might touch upon how much you need to get the functionality that may be required in the future date. And we will touch on just the variation that does occur in plantains and what that does mean with choice.
Juddy Well that sounds like an exciting episode, Allister.
Al Right, shall we get into it, and what probably is worth highlighting is that I think we have enough history and experience with plantain as a species to actually do a session on it at a later date. So I just encourage people to stay tuned and we might cover a bit about the history of plantain at a later date. But this one is focused on the Ecotain product, which is an environmental focus on the plant species Plantago lanceolata and particularly the genetics in Ecotain. How do we get there was still a totally relevant part of this discussion. In the late 2000s, we had a hell of a lot of experience with plantain all across New Zealand, from Northland to Southland and our experience had started to increase quite dramatically because we had started using plantain as a pure stand and also as a driver of a plantain and clover system. And as time has unfolded, people like myself and Glenn, we've seen a lot. We've seen a lot of landscapes. We've seen a lot of circumstances and times a year and we started noticing things that we couldn't explain. A good example would be on light, free-draining soil where you have sheep coming out of a ryegrass paddock, for example, you'd have the paddock covered in little hot spots of urine patches. But where if they at the very same time of year moved out of a plantain stand you just wouldn't see any urine patches across that landscape whatsoever. Now it's all very well discussing that now, but back in two thousand eight or nine or whatever, they didn't mean anything at all. They were just observations and we did discuss them and say "well, why is this the case?" And as we hit the 2010s, the reality is we started to just generate more discussion around the environment and all of a sudden a few of these long-term experiences we'd been having with plantain started to come together because of the emerging need and the emerging discussion in the farming landscape of which the environment had elevated quite highly. So of course, Glenn that's where we get to a point to discuss, well, what has become the emerging problem of farming in New Zealand's landscape, particularly with a focus on nitrogen and water?
Juddy Yes, certainly. And I think for quite some time now, we've recognised that nitrogen, particularly leaking out of farm systems and making its way to groundwater causes issues in terms of the quality of that water. So where we have elevated nitrate levels and phosphate, E. coli and sediment our water quality declines and it can decline for a number of different reasons in terms of eutrophication, we've got, you know, things growing in that water that shouldn't be. And so I guess from that perspective, nitrogen is one part of it. And so if we're able to limit the amount of nitrogen that's leaking out of our farm systems, that's a good thing for water quality. Now unlike sediment, for example, you know, we can fence off our waterways and we can limit access of animals to the waterways. And what that does is it does reduce things like E. coli from faecal material and sediment as animals move through there. But the one thing that fencing off those waterways won't help at all is nitrates because nitrates don't move across the soil surface and into those surface water situations. Nitrate moves through the profile and enters the underground water in that way. And so fencing off waterways doesn't achieve too much if you've got nitrogen moving through the soil profile. And so one of the startling things about nitrogen is up to 90 per cent of all the nitrogen that leaches out of a farm system, say a dairy farm, for example, comes via the urine patch. So it's not about...
Al So just to clarify that it's not fertiliser specifically, that is a problem here. It is the fact that it gets concentrated in the animal.
Juddy Yeah, correct. So if you're applying fertiliser in the most appropriate ways, actually that application of fertiliser is not the problem. The problem is that if we take the dairy cow, for example, they'll graze about 140 square metres a day. That's about the size of a small house. And they'll take the nitrogen from that 140 square metres and they'll concentrate that up and half of the nitrogen that they consume will then be deposited through urine into urine patches, which cover just three square metres. So the concentration of that nitrogen from 140 square metres to three square metres can be quite high. So we're sometimes dealing with six seven 800, the equivalent of, kilograms of nitrogen per hectare in those urine patches and the pasture plants in those urine patches just aren't able to take up much nitrogen from that high concentration and as we get water moving through the profile, that nitrogen leaks out of the system.
Al And it's really important to just point out because it always sounds quite dramatic when you put it like that, the urine patches don't cover the whole of the paddock. They're actually quite a small part of the cycling, even though they're an important part of nutrient cycling, they only cover how much in a calendar year of a hectare?
Juddy So a calendar year maybe 25 to 30 per cent of the land area is actually covered by urine patches. But that's where most of the nitrogen is leaking out from.
Al So I would still point out also because again, it's quite a scary discussion when you hear those figures. The risk isn't a risk just because the urine falls on the ground. The risk is when you get high rainfall in a short period of time after because the soil was actually capable of binding and capturing a large amount of that nitrogen, not just the plant, but the soil. But at a point in time, it's quite vulnerable to really high rainfall events and that's where the risk actually sits. So in a calendar year, it's not happening every single time it's happening during these big rainfall events, which we can't control.
Juddy Correct and I think the other factor that sits there is it's not just big rainfall events, it's the fact that it's the rainfall event compared to the water holding capacity of the soil. So in some cases, it might be that 30 mls is enough to top that soil up and get drainage. So it's really the drainage that drives this.
Al So some soils can tolerate up to 60 to 70 millimetres of moisture before they start draining, other soils it is actually a much smaller amount of water.
Juddy Yeah and you see this reflected in some of the research that has been done at the scale where Massey University, for example, have some hydraulically isolated paddocks and they're running dairy cows across those and really interesting even with high stocking rates and a quite high nutrient loading the amount that they are leaching through that profile, even under high rainfall is actually very low. You know, in fact, it might only be 15 units per hectare per year, whereas on light, free-draining soils that could be 70. And that doesn't come because the urine patch is any less concentrated. It comes from the fact that the...
Al Soil and the biological system can actually hold it...
Juddy ...can actually hold it. Yeah, so you're right, there are some factors that mitigate the amount leached, but in most farm systems, most of it is coming through the urine patch. And if we can control the nitrogen leaching from the urine patch we can largely solve the problem of nitrogen leaking out of the farm system and into the waterways. And it's really important to probably put context around this that nitrogen is still a really important nutrient for plants. The problem we've got is when the nitrogen in our farm systems, gets outside that system and moves into waterways where it can be a problem nutrient. And so I think what we're trying to do is, my analogy is a bath, you know, we want the bath as full as we possibly can so we've got healthy plants. We just don't want the plug to be out and to be leaking out into the environment. So I think that's still really important. So after some of the discoveries and then you've mentioned the journey that we've been on...
Al The observations really without context.
Juddy Yeah and so the context really came when we started looking at what was happening to nitrogen and we could see that plantain had some functionality in trying to reduce the leaky ness of these urine patches. So in terms of the way that it functions, so Ecotain is the environmentally functional plantain, it works using four independent mechanisms to reduce nitrate leaching from the urine patch.
Al And Glenn when you say it works, saying it's got four independent mechanisms, there's been a lot of research done and publications on elements of all of those. So that's been a pretty well repeated set of research that has constantly shown results in all of these different mechanisms.
Juddy Yeah it's probably one of the products and species that has had the most work done on aspects of these. So over multiple science organisations, over multiple years, over multiple farming systems the benefits and variation in terms of the effectiveness, but the benefits of these four mechanisms have been demonstrated on numerous occasions in numerous systems.
Al So when you've coined these mechanisms, what are they and just, you know, what do they cover? I mean, what aspect of the whole processes we've just been discussing, do they cover?
Juddy Yeah. So we term them dilute and delay, reduce and restrict. And I think if we just walk through those four mechanisms and I'll just explain briefly how they work and some of the research behind that. So if we start, the first two are quite animal-centric, so if we start kind of at the front of the animal and work to the soil. The first mechanism is about the amount of dietary nitrogen, the cow or sheep or ruminants eating the amount of that dietary nitrogen that makes its way to urine. So typically under a ryegrass feeding regime, for example, about half of the nitrogen that the cow eats, for example, will end up in urine. So about 50 per cent.
Al But to put it the other way, the rest gets put into milk or gets put into live weight gain of meat and some of it just gets lost inside the biological system of the animal.
Juddy Yep, so half of it's in the urine. There are some that go into faecal material, which actually is far less leachable. So that's a good thing. Yes, you're right it ends up in milk as protein and some non-protein nitrogen compounds, it may be retained by the animal in terms of lean tissue growth. And so typically, we can account for most of the nitrogen going in the front end in terms of those different pools. But interestingly enough and most importantly what has been shown in a number of studies now that from an Ecotain diet, we get less of that dietary nitrogen making its way through to urine.
Al So to clarify this, the industry wide modelling for partitioning, particularly in dairy cows, of the amount of nitrogen going in going to productive products and other biological parts of the animal and then that is free to be lost to the environment. That's been pretty consistently reported. It's been pretty consistently modelled. Ryegrass white clover is a very consistent, predictable partitioning between production and loss.
Juddy So regardless of the nitrogen intake, that ratio holds pretty true that about half of what you eat will be partitioned to urine. So if you have a very high nitrogen diet, half of a very large number will be a lot going out in urine. If you've got a low nitrogen intake, half of a smaller number will be similar, but it's about half and it seems to hold pretty true across the ryegrass. What's different about Ecotain is that we have less of that dietary nitrogen making its way through to the urine. It gets partitioned in different places. More of it goes to faecal material. So we are saying that more of the nitrogen is in a non-digestible form. And so that's a good thing because it's not going into urine. We also see some increases in terms of nitrogen turning up in milk as a protein and it's difficult to measure changes in live weight or lean tissue, which is where some of the other might be going.
Al Especially in a working animal like a dairy cow.
Juddy Absolutely. So that's the first mechanism we've got less dietary nitrogen going into urine. To give a sense of the magnitude of that, if half of it on a ryegrass diet is going into urine, maybe a third to 40 per cent is going to urine from a plantain diet. So not huge but it's the first mechanism where we're getting this change in terms of partitioning. The second mechanism, so that's what we call reduce. We're reducing the total amount of dietary nitrogen that's making its way into urine. The second mechanism is the dilute mechanism. And that's where we're less nitrogen going in, but now in terms of our dilute mechanism, animals grazing Ecotain have a higher urine volume and that is the animals putting more water into that urine. And so there is a dilution effect.
Al So the reality here is if you're in a calendar year, you cover a hectare with about 25 to 28 per cent of the area covered in urine patches, you might take the same amount of nutrient, but move it over about 32/34 percent of that area. Doesn't sound a lot, but when you spread it out, even a small amount, the soil and the plants have a bigger chance of capturing a bit more.
Juddy Absolutely and we know that the concentration of those urine patches is a key metric for how much leaches. The closer you can get to the concentration that plants can take up large amounts of that, the less that you are going to leach. So that dilution happens for two reasons. The first one is a little obvious, plantain as a species and particularly some cultivars of plantain, are quite a lot wetter or have a lower drymatter is another way of saying it compared to ryegrass. So when they are consuming a diet which is high in Ecotain. They are actually eating a lot of water and, you know, Allister that if we start drinking large amounts of water, then our urine volume goes up.
Al Or coffee.
Juddy Yeah or coffee.
Al Oh coffee might be a good intro actually...
Juddy So the first one is water intake through feed. The other one and interesting you talk about coffee, is there is actually a diuretic effect, so at the same water intake, so if we're able to balance those diets for water, animals grazing Ecotain will have a high urine output because of secondary plant compounds probably creating a diuretic which is essentially telling the animal to put more water into urine out of the body pool. So those two effects combine to increasing the amount of water in urine, increase in the urine volume and diluting down what is a smaller amount of nitrogen coming through from the diet. So those two effects are the animal-centric and both of them together means that the concentration of nitrogen in the urine patches of those animals grazing Ecotain is substantially less than ryegrass.
Al And just to clarify, because we're going to cover it a little bit later, these are the two mechanisms that are being acknowledged in industry and industry bodies at the moment as mechanisms of worth based on the sheer amount of information that's been generated on them.
Juddy So they are the ones that are essentially being recognised at the moment as the key drivers of opportunities. However, there are two more mechanisms that we certainly have generated a large number of data on, that over time again will become recognised in terms of some of the modelling for example and may be recognised as mechanisms through which nitrate leaching is being reduced.
Al And they are quite powerful, too. So that's what's quite exciting, about the next two.
Juddy I think Alastair, that actually the two animal-centric ones are the smaller of the four. I think the soil base which we're about to talk about are actually the more powerful ones. Because they have the largest effect and actually, I think they have the most sustained effect. So we'll talk about those now and the first one, which we call the delay mechanism is about holding urinary nitrogen in the urine patch in a form that is non-leachable. So let me explain this a little bit about the nitrogen cycle.
Al It would be nice to have a graph on the nitrogen cycle, which would show it quite clearly.
Juddy Yeah but let me try and explain. So the nitrogen in the urine patch, typically urea is very quickly hydrolysed to ammonium. So essentially that sits in the urine patch and that happens quite rapidly within the urine patch. Now, ammonium is actually positively charged and it is very good at hanging on to soil colloids, which are negatively charged.
Al Let's get this right it hits the ground and turns into ammonia and ammonia can't move, it doesn't move through the soil. You get 60 mls of rain on a light soil and it doesn't necessarily move.
Juddy It's not going to move. It is non-leachable but very quickly that ammonium through our ammonium oxidising bacteria a few other soil bugs, which are in all our soils, convert that ammonium through to nitrate. A couple of steps and we won't explain those, but we'll say very simply, it's going from ammonium through to nitrate
Al Just very, very quickly, what's the timeframes are we talking that this could happen in? Just give us a range.
Juddy So that could happen...
Al Is it like five days or seven days or?
Juddy So over a period of a couple of weeks, the urinary nitrogen which is urea is landing and converting to ammonium in hours. It's very quickly.
Al So again to try and create really clear pictures, like if 500 kilograms of concentrated urine, 500 kgs of N in concentrated urine patch, hits the ground while it's in an ammonia state that's actually OK. But over a period of 14 days, that concentration becomes exposed to be able to be.
Juddy Very leachable.
Al Captured by the plant.
Juddy Yup. So both nitrogen forms, ammonium and the nitrate, are plant available it's just that one's not leachable and the other one's very leachable - being the nitrate. So nitrification inhibits (the process by which ammonium is turned into nitrate is called nitrification), the nitrification inhibitors essentially stop those ammonium oxidising bacteria from converting the non-leachable form into the leachable form. And so if we can hold it in the non-leachable form for longer then theres less likely of that being leached. And so that's what animals grazing Ecotain actually have. We've discovered a biological nitrification inhibitor in the urine of animals grazing Ecotain. So what that means is that the ammonia oxidising bacteria in the soil are unable to quickly convert the nitrogen in the urine patch through to nitrate. And so we're holding it in the non-leachable form for longer. So what it means and I think this is going to be particularly useful in more free of draining soils where we have high rainfall is that eventually they will convert it to nitrate. But the risk of a high rainfall event washing most of that nitrate through is much reduced if it's all sitting in the non-leachable form.
Al So just again, putting those timelines, if you have a urine patch and at day 10 you get 60 to 80 mls, if it's a urine patch created from an animal eating Ecotain, it could very well hold the majority of that N in ammonia state at that rainfall date.
Juddy Yes. So to put some sort of numbers around that, possibly in a ryegrass urine patch, most of it could be leached if we have a big drainage event. If we have a urine patch created from an animal that's grazed Ecotain, there may only be 20 per cent of that, which is now in the nitrate form to be leached. So four months down the track. You know, a lot of it could be leached, but by that stage...
Al By then our plants will have picked that up and actually gone through two or three regrowth cycles. So those urine patches are pretty dominant and the first regrowth cycle, second the nutrient level within them has been utilised. So I could see it being...
Juddy So they've measured this, in terms of the small plot work, they've measured this effect saying that they can show differences in terms of the nitrification inhibition for up to a month. Now what that means is even in longer rotations, right, 30 days, you've got a lot of time even longer than the average rotation before some of that effect starts.
Al So that fundamentally means on a 20 day round in the peak of the season that the previous urination could still be being captured in the second regrowth cycle.
Juddy Now we know that autumn urine patches are our most dangerous. And even if we're starting to push that rotation out in the autumn, I think it's still within the bounds of capturing most of that. So I think from that perspective, we think that's going to be really useful. Now there are some cultivars of plantain that do this mechanism better than others. And so we've been quite focussed on making sure one: actually understanding how this works and so we've got a clear picture of what is actually happening in the space, and we are also able to look at a number of different cultivars and breeding lines and make sure that we can pick the ones that are going to be highly functional in the space. So we've got a really good understanding of that. The last mechanism of those four is what we call the restrict function. Right? Now, it's a similar function to what's happening in the urine patch, but we don't actually need urine. So if we in swards and we use lysimeters to actually demonstrate this. So lysimeters being those undisturbed columns of soil that we've sort of dug it into a tube and what we're able to do is pour urine from grass-fed animals onto the top of these lysimeters that are hosting a mixed sward with Ecotain in it. And what we're finding in that situation is that there's a reduction in the amount of nitrogen leached out of those. So we've got the same amount of nitrogen. It's coming from the same animal. The only difference is the fact that we've got Ecotain in some swards and not others.
Al So let's clarify that the urine has been created from the animal, but only by eating ryegrass and possibly white clover. That urine has been taken and put onto a different sward, so it's like walking the animal from a paddock full of ryegrass white clover into another paddock and that paddock has Ecotain in it and she's urinated in that paddock. So she's taken a grass, urine base, gone and urinated in there and what you're saying is that just because the plant is present in the soil, it has changed...
Juddy Fundamentally changed because we're not seeing the same amount of leaching from those. Now there are a couple of different mechanisms that could be at play here and we continue to do some more work in this area to discover exactly why that's the case.
Al I think I know Glenn because I just, you know, there's been a few discussions around this over time and at the heart of it, Plantago Lanceolata is a low to medium fertility plant bordering on the end of low fertility. And it wouldn't surprise me if plants that have evolved to survive and be weeds literally in low fertility environments have thought of smart mechanisms for capturing and holding what little nutrient exists in the landscape. And so it wouldn't surprise me at all to know this, that the plant is manipulating the soil microbes to protect what nutrient does come it's way. So that's pretty cool.
Juddy Yeah so there's a little bit more work that needs to be done there. But what you can see is if you add all those together and there's one bit of work that's done that and I'll explain that at the end, but if you add together the four mechanisms, we've got less dietary nitrogen going into urine. That nitrogen is being mixed with more water coming from a wetter forage and a diuretic. If there are secondary plant compounds in the urine, which are acting as a biological nitrification inhibitor in the urine patch - targeted - and if it's falling on a sward that's got Ecotain in it, that there are some further changes to the nitrogen cycle that when you add all those four things up that you get really good control of the amount that's leached. Now there's one PhD study that's gone and done that and they reported an 89 per cent reduction in the amount of nitrate leaching out of lysimeters with all four of those mechanisms.
Al And unless I'm mistaken and this is what's relevant for future ryegrass breeding, for example, is that then you, inside that system, put it in a mixture with really autumn active ryegrass, be it an Italian or a modern perennial that's super strong in autumn like Legion our new diploid perennial, the ability to hold that nitrogen in that urine patch for longer and then utilise it with a fibrous root structured species like grass is almost the ultimate soak up for that, for any nutrient.
Juddy And you make a good point, Allister because in some of those lysimeters where we've had nothing else but Ecotain, those numbers aren't quite as impressive. And I think you're right that it's not just the Ecotain, but the combination with a plant that is very good at taking up nitrogen...
Al Fibrous root structure, nitrogen hungry...
Juddy Autumn active...
Al Autumn active, winter active which is ryegrass, basically.
Juddy Which is ryegrass. So I think and that's where I guess the idea of mixing those two together has come. And the other thing that's really interesting is in those mixed swards, the amount of Ecotain there is actually quite surprisingly, it's quite small. So we're not needing sort of 50, 60, 70 per cent Ecotain in those swards to generate this effect, you know, at 20 and 30 per cent we are right in the zone where we're generating some of those numbers.
Al Unless I'm mistaken. All you need is one plant on the ground where a urine patch forms and that one plant's affecting the soil around it. Yeah. And so, you know, one of those mechanisms kicks off even at a moderately low population base.
Juddy Yeah, so the work that's going to be further done, there's a little bit of work that's got to be further done and one of those is actually exploring at what other plant populations at which some of the soil affects may be occurring? So that's the mechanisms on that. I guess one of the challenges is around getting this on farm.
Al Yeah but if I looked at that though, it's still pretty exciting just the way you describe that because, you know, we're not hanging, you know, this whole opportunity, you know, this represents an opportunity for people that actually desperately need to have these things. What's really exciting about it is we're not hanging the result on just one function? So the key here is that, I mean, quite regularly, something overwhelms a singular function. You know, it might not work in this location or it might not work in this. But what you're actually saying is that this is pretty cool because there are almost four independent functions running here or four and a half if you include the amount of water you eat, plus the diuretic. But the point still being is that it's pretty exciting science when you can find four separate functions, all working towards a common goal.
Juddy Yeah. And I think maybe that's the reason why we're getting it working in so many places because, you know, it might be in free draining soils with, you know, high rainfall that it's that delay function that's taking the lion's share of that. Whereas in the situation, these heavy soils, it may very well be the reduction in terms of the nitrogen concentrated the urine patch, which i playing the major role. I'm so the having four facets to this, I think, is you’re absolutely right to enable, you know if there's one of those functions that isn't working as well as others, there are other functions that'll take up the slack. And so I think the chances that you have situations where this fails is probably lower because of the fact that you've got these mechanisms. The other thing we've got to recognise is that but they do, they are of different magnitudes. And so, you know, I think the soil based ones I'm really excited about because, from the data that we've got already, it would seem that they are the larger part of this discussion.
Al At the moment that is the part of this discussion that's not getting acknowledged in the modelling. So from a farming community perspective, I mean, to be fair, we've still got more, you know, benefit that could be achieved going forward from the same technology.
Juddy And I guess, this is an I'm going to launch out here and try and put a figure on this and we'll wait to see what the research says. But it's not inconceivable that currently, you know, typically we could get a 15 per cent reduction in terms of nitrate leached if you were modelling that, it's not inconceivable if you were employing Ecotain at a, you know, 30 per cent of the pasture that you might not be able to halve the losses, so it's very cool. And we need to let research fill in some of those gaps. But I don't see that it's inconceivable that we could get that magnitude...
Al In a whole farm system.
Juddy ...on a whole farm system. And I guess that's probably the next challenge is getting that on to farm and the different ways that you could do that. So being the agronomist, if I'm a farmer and I'm interested in this, what are the ways I could be thinking about getting this into my farming system?
Al Well, it's quite topical at the moment because, you know, alongside all this, the world keeps changing. And so since we, you know, we didn't know what we didn't know in the 2000s, we had all these observations. The research of the early 2010s has shown us and kept unfolding this pretty awesome story when you really look at it like you've just described. But in more recent times, another discussion point has occurred too, which is, you know, elevating diversity in pasture. And so, you know, the real positive thing is this sits alongside two discussions now. One, the functionality from an Ecotain perspective, the other presenting and offering a diverse pasture to the grazing animals. And so how do you create diversity based on Ecotain is a really pretty cool question. The reality is that as soon as you start working with herbs in general pastures, you do start to limit your herbicide options for problem weeds. And so you've got a whole set of mechanisms for introducing herbs into your landscape. But many of them have to be thoughtful because it is not as simple to put them everywhere and run the consequences of what your doc burden is or your buttercup burden or your thistle burden. So there are a lot of mechanisms for getting it into farm. I can't emphasise enough to get your target populations and the reality is that this 30 per cent has been bandied around a lot. But unless I'm mistaken, any plantain is going to elevate or Ecotain is going to elevate our level of functionality?
Juddy Yes, it just highlights that point, I think you're right. The targets could be at, you know, 30 per cent, but I think I would see the various industries moving to get credit for what you have gotten, they will be a proportion of the potential that you would have...
Al On the gradient if you get, you know, audited or reviewed on a gradient.
Juddy Interestingly enough, most of the research says that once you start getting up to 50 per cent, you don't get any more benefit from getting higher than that. So it's not like again this idea that we've got to get somehow pure diets, is not right. You know this seems to be linear, potentially up to up to 50 percent. And so the targets of 30 per cent, I think a useful right now, but if you're only able to get 10 percent of the landscape, that is still useful and from what I can see, we'll still have the ability to attract some valuation claims.
Al So when we talk about how do we get it in now, there's a couple of things that are really important here we have to acknowledge its ecological space in a grassland. That sounds complicated for just a pasture in a paddock. But the reality is you have primary species and you have secondary species and in fact, you have tertiary species. And these all fit on an ecological gradient which is defined by your dominant species. And at the moment, there is no question and we've reported this in a previous discussion. Is that ryegrass is a driver of productivity in New Zealand and output and it is a primary species of a pasture. So the most ecological sort of situations after one, two or three years, it will end up being around 60 per cent of all the content that is there. So you think about that right from the start. If ryegrass covers 60 per cent of all the content, you only have 40 per cent left for other things. And again, in previous conversations, we've discussed clover and its role inside pasture mixes. So if that is then consumed and in dairy at the moment, the average clover content is around eight per cent, I'd like to think that gets greater with the nitrogen limits coming now. But it's about eight per cent. So if ryegrass is 60 per cent, white clover is eight per cent, we're now down to 32 per cent. And so, you know, there's the space that is ecologically available for something else to fill. One, we would like clover to be more, but two, we would like to get around 30 per cent plantain in that space. However, there are other things as well, such as weed grasses, weeds and other undesirables that start to fill in those spaces as well. So coming back to how do we get a decent amount in, in my experience there is no better way than in the original pasture mixture. By putting two to three kilograms of Ecotain, depending on the climate you're in and the situation you're in, will get within the first one year to one and a half years, you would hit those targets of anywhere between 30 and even up to 40 per cent in that initial phase. Because our Ecotain is almost as vigorous as a ryegrass through that first period of time and it is particularly vigorous in summer and autumn. So it fits very, very well in a calendar year for the nitrogen protection in the autumn. So from sowing it in a mixture, we can achieve these things. However, it is on a constant declining plane because as a species it is still having to compete with aggressive, ryegrass based pasture and it is not necessarily a truly long lived species. It's long lived in the sense that it's not an annual. But to be fair today, no one even myself who has been dealing with the species for 25 years, I cannot tell you how long vegetatively a single plant will last. My suspicions are anywhere between two and four years and where people have it lasting much longer, it also has the ability to recruit from reseeding. But I can't emphasise enough, the plants that do reseed tend to after that die due to plant diseases that come in. So we tend to find we can get high contents from newly established pasture by including it in the pasture mix. And assuming we have no weeds that we have to aggressively spray, which may remove the plantain. You can get high rates in young pasture by sowing it with your mixtures. After that, you have a declining plane and there are other ways to introduce it to pasture and or top up paddocks and one of them is broadcasting. The success of broadcasting is not as high and it is not as immediate. You can utilise four to five to six kilograms of seed. I do recommend elevating that rate as prillcoted seed. That's seed that's coated with a big clay coating that helps the ballistics and it's spreading as you throw it across the paddock. The key to this technique is that that plant has to germinate as a tiny seedling in a fully productive pasture and then has to fight its way into the canopy and then actually find a space to develop with time. And so when you see broadcasting programmes, they are an investment in improving content over a period of about 12 months. It's not instantaneous. And when you look at the research in the past, a lot of measurements happened early. The reality is you can't even see the plants they're so small in the general pasture.
Juddy Yes. So if you're assessing that after six months, you might label it as a complete failure. Yet after 12 months, you could have quite significant volumes there.
Al And I think there is a lot of wastage when you are doing that. I have to say it's just a simple biological fact is you're not putting it into a clean seed bed and getting every plant going. But we think and there has been a bit of published information that the average content can be increased by about 18 per cent of the botanical from just that. So broadcasting is a technique. Direct drilling is also a technique into existing pastures, it's called undersowing in many parts of the country. And you know, if you are undersowing a hybrid ryegrass into a degrading perennial pasture in a dairy platform, why not introduce Ecotain in that exact same role? It also gives you the opportunity to clean your weeds to start with at one time of the year and then introduce it via undersowing in another. There's no doubt in my mind that having Ecotain on the farm to be broadcast into damaged areas in August and September grazing in wet weather, is an ideal time to introduce it as well. The other technique is that nationally, particularly in dryland dairy throughout the country, we often use crops such as chicory as a protein source, particularly a strong protein source through very dry summer conditions. And chicory is highly successful at this. Our Ecotain can run the same sort of summer cropping role, sown in the spring used as a summer crop, particularly through that vulnerable time in late summer and autumn. And it's a plant that can last a little bit longer than chicory as well. And therefore, because of that, you've got an ability to offer it as a third of the diet over all of that summer autumn period. So as a summer crop, it's a pretty powerful opportunity. And then if your need is really high and you need to get a more guaranteed content, there are other techniques which are far less obvious and a little bit more complicated, but adjacent monocultures, which are where you deliberately sow a proportion of your paddock as a pure stand and the rest as your pasture and you graze them together. But by doing that, you can guarantee content. It's complicated and not going to be desirable for many people, but it is one way of guaranteeing an intake.
Juddy So I guess from that there are a number of different ways both sowing it with your new pasture, undersowing it or direct drilling in and broadcasting that we can either establish or top up the content on the farm.
Al And the thing is, it's no one sow and walk away type situation. If this is a tool that is going to help you continue to farm in a way you're familiar with, you will find you will need to keep working on it over time. There's no shortcut or easy way around it that we've seen to date.
Juddy Right. Well, I think we're going to kind of wrap it there. I guess if I may bring this together and summarise some of the stuff that we've talked about, I think there's obviously there's a need in terms of reducing nitrate leaching out of farm systems and from a water quality point of view.
Al To put the plug in the bath.
Juddy You want to put the plug in the bath. I think Ecotain is an environmentally functional plantain, working in four different mechanisms to reduce nitrate leaching from the urine patch. And we've talked about those. We've also talked about the journey that Agricom was on in terms of looking at some of the observations from seed crops and from large areas of using plantain over a number of different systems. And making those observations and then really understanding as, you know, nitrate leaching became a real focus how, particularly Ecotain, was able to modify that nitrogen cycle for the benefit of that nitrate leaching. We've also talked about how we get Ecotain onto farm in terms of the ways we can do that from including that into your pasture mix through to broadcasting. Understanding the relative success rates of those and what's required to get a good content on farm. So we hope you've enjoyed that. Hope you've picked up some of the information and we'll see you at the next podcast.
Al See ya Glenn, thank you.