Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Grain and Graze
21 Fodders and mixed farming by Angelo loi and brad Nutt BrooKTon, WesTern aUsTralia, growers Colin and anna Butcher are saving up to $100 per hectare in nitrogen fertiliser costs by using an innovative and low-cost pasture-establishment method to build free nitrogen for subsequent crops while filling the autumn feed gap for their meat sheep enterprise. Known as ‘summer sowing’, the new method involves direct drilling unprocessed pods of MarguritaA or erica hard-seeded french serradella varieties into stubble between January and March and allowing the summer heat to soften the seed before the autumn break. The advantage of the new method is that the pasture seed is ready and waiting in the soil when the first rains fall, enabling it to germinate and establish early in the season. The summer sowing also means the pasture is established during a quiet time on-farm. The Butchers have worked closely with department of agriculture and food, Wa (dafWa) pasture researchers to trial the new pasture-establishment method through a grain & graze-funded project on their 2400ha mixed-farming property. The new pasture-establishment approach uses unprocessed serradella seed grown on-farm at a cost of about 30 to 50 cents per kilogram. Without the need for dehulling and scarifying, the new method is cost and time-effective, costing about $10 to $20 per hectare to establish the pasture when farm-grown seed is used, compared with $45 to $60/ha to buy in seed. Just one hectare of serradella pasture can generate enough seed for a 20 to 40ha sowing. a trial of MaceA wheat grown on the Butchers’ property in 2013 following serradella in 2012 produced a five tonne/ha yield with no added nitrogen – delivering a gross return of $1360/ha (5t of wheat at wheat $272/t). The hard-seeded serradellas can produce more than 20 kilograms of nitrogen per tonne of dry matter plant biomass grown during the growing season. in a medium- rainfall (400-millimetre) area, such as the Butchers’, a 6 to 7t/ha serradella stand will leave enough nitrogen in the soil to grow two crops in a row. The serradella regenerates well after a cropping phase, reducing or even doing away with the need to supplementary feed sheep during summer or autumn. □ grdc research code dAW00213 more information: Dr Angelo Loi, DAFWA, 08 9368 3907, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr Bradley Nutt, DAFWA, 08 9368 3870, email@example.com Summer sown hard seeded serradella www.grdc.com.au/GC113V-Serradella pasture phase delivers Free nitrogen and Fodder A new, low-cost pasture-establishment method known as ‘summer sowing’ is delivering free crop nitrogen while filling the autumn feed gap Brookton, Wa, grower Colin Butcher (left), who has trialled the new method, says it has saved him about $100 per hectare in nitrogen fertiliser costs while enabling him to forgo supplementary feeding of his meat sheep flock. also pictured are DaFWa research officer Dr angelo loi (right), who helped develop the new method, and Sardinian pasture scientist Claudio Porqueddu (centre). The French serradella on the left was sown using unprocessed pods into stubble in February, while that on the right was sown using dehulled and scarified French serradella seed in autumn after opening rains. a significant difference in early biomass production is evident. photo: DAFWA changes to crop rotation lifted average net farm profit by about $6 million in 2013. the benefits came from reduced weed control and nitrogen fertiliser costs in subsequent crops. growers reported a gain of up to $100/ha in recovered nitrogen costs through rotating crops with a serradella pasture.
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