From Fertiliser Matters, Issue 69 

In early February the OVERSEER® owners (MPI, AgResearch and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand) released an independent report quantifying some of the benefits associated with New Zealand’s nutrient budgeting support tool, OVERSEER. Independent consultant Phil Journeaux of AgFirst Waikato conducted three months’ worth of field research to compile the report, which included interviewing 28 individuals from Regional Councils, MPI, MfE, MBIE, as well as agricultural, educational and science organisations.

The report focused on the benefits of OVERSEER as a research tool, a tool for increasing the efficiency of fertiliser use, and a tool to assist in managing nutrient losses from farms. Officially launched at the Fertilizer and Lime Research Workshop in February this year, the report, entitled: “Valuation of the Benefits of the OVERSEER® Nutrient Budget Model”, estimates that the average benefit value contributed by OVERSEER is approximately $271 million per year. This value projected over a 50 year lifetime is calculated as $3.3 billion. The author concluded that alternative approaches to derive information similar to that produced by OVERSEER (e.g. direct measurement) would involve significant cost to users, especially farmers and regional councils, and “…may not be as accurate or effective in predicting nutrient use for individual farms.”

Dr Philip Mladenov, Chief Executive of the Fertiliser Association, said of the benefit valuation: “This report confirms what we knew intuitively, that OVERSEER provides significant benefits for New Zealand, including for the primary industries sector and the science community. It demonstrates that the investment of the OVERSEER owners has been more than justified and has created, and will continue to create, substantial value for New Zealand.”

The report stated that many experts believed that in the absence of OVERSEER, an inputsbased regulatory approach would likely be adopted for agriculture in New Zealand, as has been adopted in other parts of the world. However, the firm belief of the primary sector is that trying to achieve the environmental outcomes we seek using input controls would require a huge investment in regulation, monitoring and compliance, while discouraging farming practice innovation, which would have a negative impact on agricultural output and profitability.

One thing all of the report’s interviewees agreed was that ongoing investment and research needs to go into OVERSEER to maintain and grow its value to New Zealand agriculture. Such development work is currently taking place, and its validity has been further strengthened by the findings of this report. A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the OVERSEER website: