Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Lifting the lid on pasture under-performance


The competitive advantage of New Zealand’s pasture-based system has been in the spotlight recently. But as we know, not all pasture was created equal. Getting pasture producing at its peak is all about assessment, then action.

Weather is a dominant factor in pasture production. But cool spring, or dry autumn conditions can also mask other pasture performance problems.

Before rushing into pasture renewal, assessing the scale of the issue is vital.

  • Take a look at the handy Pasture Condition Scoring Guide on the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust website.
  • Pasture measurement tools, such as C-Dax Pasture Meters, and mapping tools will make under-performing paddocks more visible.
  • When combined with detailed soil testing data and paddock walking, diagnosing the problem will be much easier.

Accurately assessing any performance gap, and its causes, will increase the chance of successful resolution. You do not want to complete remedial work, only to have the same issues return to affect your new pasture.

If insects are causing issues, a break crop of non-grass species, such as brassicas, may be required to remove the insects so they don’t affect the germinating pasture. There are a range of novel endophyte options available, depending on the insects present, with differing impacts on animal production.

The use of companion herbicides in combination with glyphosate to remove problem weeds might be called for. In some cases, pasture renewal may not be needed because a soil nutrient deficiency is identified as the limiting factor.

There are a many of factors to consider when selecting what species/cultivar to use. The range of pasture-damaging insects will determine the type of endophyte used, but also the timing of peak pasture growth – and that doesn’t mean all year round! Looking at your pasture production records and animal feed demand will aid in deciding which species/cultivar will best meet your needs.

With ryegrasses, the use of different flowering dates can extend peak pasture production and have an impact on summer quality. In certain environments ryegrass won’t be the best option for either pasture production or persistence.

As it could be a mix of all three, agronomic advice from someone you trust is a very good idea!