New Zealand dairy business Fonterra, local industry body DairyNZ and food giant Nestlé have come together in an attempt to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

They are taking part in a trial which is based on incorporating varieties of plantain into a cow’s diet. It is suggested this could reduce the nitrogen concentration in their urine which can leach through soil into groundwater.

DairyNZ has been leading the Tararua Plantain Project in New Zealand’s lower North Island where farmers have been growing plantain for their cows. 

Now, Fonterra and Nestlé are helping expand the project further through additional funding and by sharing expertise.

Fonterra’s director of on-farm excellence Charlotte Rutherford said: “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.”

Nestlé agricultural materials specialist Robert Erhard said: "Working with our suppliers and others is critical for achieving Nestlé's target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Reducing on-farm greenhouse gas emissions and protecting waterways will help us get there and we're pleased to partner with Fonterra and DairyNZ on this initiative."

The new collaboration is helping to accelerate the uptake of Ecotain - a blend of environmentally functional plantain cultivars developed by seed company Agricom. Currently, 50 Tararua farms have started to use plantain, through DairyNZ's Tararua Plantain Project.

Ecotain has been used in studies by DairyNZ, Agricom, Lincoln University, Massey University and AgResearch, with results showing it can significantly reduce nitrogen leaching. Preliminary studies also show it has the potential to lower on-farm greenhouse gas emissions through the reduction of nitrous oxide.