Grains Research and Development

Date: 02.05.2016

Pasture fit for new HRZ model

Author: Sharon Watt

A new farming system model for the southern cropping region’s high-rainfall zone (HRZ) is emerging as a result of a GRDC ‘Pastures in Crop Sequencing’ project. The project, by Southern Farming Systems (SFS), aims to help increase adoption of pasture and fodder-based practices to solve problems threatening the long-term viability of cropping-dominant systems in the HRZ.

SFS consultant Simon Falkiner, of FalkinerAg, says the project, established in 2011, has helped growers overcome the challenges of working with a cropping system inherited from north of the Great Dividing Range.

“When we first started out on this project, we recognised the need for a legume or a break crop in our farming systems. This was an opportunity to put some pasture into our cropping rotation and to take the first steps in creating a new model for the HRZ.”

The project has four main areas of focus. The first is about combating weeds through pasture and forage systems and the second is the use of legume pastures as a source of nitrogen that did not ‘come out of a bag’. The third focus is about overcoming climate variability by finding methods to capitalise on rainfall that occurs out of season.

“We’re seeing more unusual rain events and so we want to find a way to capture the benefits of those rainfall events,” Mr Falkiner says.

The fourth focus revolves around building soil carbon, aiming to improve soil biology and dealing with hostile subsoil.

“One of the key findings was that weeds were surviving our pre-emergent and post-emergent chemical sprays and our canopy wasn’t closing quickly enough,” he says.

“Germinations of ryegrass and radish were providing the seedbank for the following year. This project has worked on capturing those weeds and not letting them set seed.”

Craig Drum, director of Gorst Rural, says the initial cost might be a bit higher than doing nothing, but the gain from extra livestock production, nitrogen, weed competition and ryegrass control was well worth it.

He says SFS and the GRDC have worked together for a long time and this project has also allowed Gorst Rural to work with the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering to develop a machine to take pasture and bury it in the soil profile.

More information:

Simon Falkiner,
FalkinerAg, 0407 319 967

Pastures in Crop Sequencing – YouTube video

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GRDC Project Code SFS00022

Region South