By Rick Jordan, Gambier Seeds
THIS is the 10th of a series of articles prepared by Gambier Seeds to feature in The Border Watch through this year. The focus of these articles will be to assist farmers to optimise productivity from their pasture and forage bases. At Gambier Seeds we believe that pastures and pasture renovation are an investment, not only in your farm production and profitability, but in its future.
CURRENT ON-FARM ISSUES
What started out as a very promising autumn with good feed production became challenging for many farms as we progressed into winter.
We are now into low soil temperatures and decreased sunlight hours and intensity.
Current soil temperatures are at or below eight degrees Celsius and sunlight intensity is 60pc of what we were getting in late May early June.
Anyone working outdoors over the last few days can attest to the temperature drop.
Environmental issues are not the only challenges at present.
DECREASED GROWTH RATES
THE impact of these environmental conditions at present is that we have our lowest growth rates and growth rate potential for the year and lowest ability for the plant to access nutrient readily from the soil.
On many farms this coincides with reduced overall farm cover (leaf area of the pasture plants) and therefore the ability of the pasture to “harvest” sunlight that we do receive.
It is this time of year when I am often told “we can’t grow grass in conditions like this”.
This is not the case, growth rates of over 25-30kg of dry matter per hectare per day can still be achieved but requires focus on pasture management to achieve them.
KEYS TO OPTIMIZING WINTER
Leaf area: Leave residual leaf post grazing, and higher residuals than normal.
This remnant leaf area are the “solar panels” that allow the plant to harvest sunlight and turn this into growth.
The smaller the solar panels, the lower the growth.
Rotationally grazing: If you set stock, you are constantly grazing leaf area and any growth that occurs.
As pasture cover increases while stock are out of a paddock, the leaf area increase drives increased growth rate which in turn increases pasture available for grazing when the stock are re-introduced.
Use of liquids: In the current conditions, responses to granular fertilisers are decreased dramatically.
Granular urea will still work, but at a much lower efficiency than when soil temperatures are higher.
Switching to liquid options such as Easy N, WinterGrow and using ProGibb becomes much more efficient and can deliver more growth in most situations.
This is also a time when most farmers are spraying broadleaf weeds out of pastures – this is where addition of liquids is a very feasible and cost-effective options where people do not have own
THIS has been one of our worst seasons to date for cockchafer damage.
High levels of the pests, majority being red or yellow headed varieties and the dry periods of low growth have led to many areas on farms where the pasture has been wiped out on large patches.
On many farms these cockchafers are still present even after one or in many cases two attempts to eradicate them with insecticide applications.
Given the lack of surface foraging and lack of heavy rainfall events early, control has been difficult to achieve.
Where there are bare areas from the cockchafers, replanting needs to occur to gain productivity from these areas going forward and to mitigate weed infestation of the areas.
I have found that the most effective way to reseed these areas is with a short-term fodder option at this time of the year – it is too late for a perennial pasture and too early for a summer fodder crop.
Planting with a cereal or cereal annual ryegrass mix is the fastest option to gain more feed at this time of year.
This option can also be treated with ProGibb/EasyN and WinterGrow to maximise growth through the winter.
It is critical to cultivate the areas to be reseeded – ideally apply an insecticide prior to cultivation to increase the impact of the cultivation on the population present.
While the cultivation does not always kill the grubs present, it exposes them to birds who will diminish the numbers quickly, and it also disrupts their eating pattern, so they do not take out the sown crop.
FORAGE CROPS AND REPLENISHING FODDER RESERVES
FOR most of my clients we are well into or finished conserved fodder we had on hand, having thought that we would have carry over with the way the season was shaping up.
As we go into August, opportunities present themselves to plant forage crops, planted to specifically harvest for conserved fodder to replenish reserves fed out this year.
This could be into areas that have been damaged by cockchafers, or where wanting to commence options for straight fodder conservation is based on a cereal with a medium to high legume content.
Oats are used predominately this time of year, but on lighter soils or where grazing only is the requirement, Cape Barley is still an option.
For the legume component, we recommend peas/vetch if for hay/silage with the addition of Shaftal or Balansa.
If planning to graze prior to shutting up for hay or silage, we swap out the peas and vetch for a higher rate of annual clovers.
Use of a specific forage crop in this instance allows for a focus on inputs to guarantee a high yield from a relatively small area to ensure fodder reserves are replenished despite what the season throws at us from here in.
Please contact us at Gambier Seeds if you are having issues with any of the above so we can discuss options that can rectify the problems encountered.