Forage crop options for successful systems
Author: Ellen McNamara | Date: 18 Oct 2016
New South Wales grain growers can bolster the performance of their cropping systems by looking beyond the standard annual-cereal forages such as oats or forage sorghum.
“Research undertaken as part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Grain and Graze project show several options for your system,” Dr Bell said.
“Forage brassicas are often used in high rainfall livestock systems but could also provide an alternative break crop option in the place of canola in northern farming systems.
“Winter forages, such as forage brassicas could provide similar crop rotation benefits to canola, can produce > 5 tonne dry matter (DM)/hectare reliably in drier regions and are resistant to key soil-borne pathogens.
“Several field pea varieties could provide flexible dual-purpose options which can produce forage yields of up to 80% in oats, provide nitrogen inputs and offer weed management and crop rotation benefits.”
A number of summer growing forage crops could also be used in cropping systems in areas around the northern cropping zone, providing options to utilise summer rainfall and manage ground cover while filling seasonal feed gaps in summer or autumn.
“Summer forage options such as millet, sorghum and legumes like lablab could be used to transition between summer and winter crop phases and provide disease and weed management benefits,” Dr Bell said.
Summer and winter annual and short-lived perennial legumes are also available, such as burgundy bean or vetch, and can also provide break crop benefits along with fixing atmospheric nitrogen for subsequent crops.
Dr Bell says there are a number of aspects that should be considered in order to boost the performance of forage crops in farming systems.
“These include awareness of residual herbicides, which many legumes and broadleaf options are highly susceptible to, particularly those chemicals often used in cereal crop rotations,” he said.
“Also some of the forages can pose risks to animal health, particularly relating to bloat on high quality winter legumes and the risk of high nitrates in forage brassicas.
“Growers should also be mindful to appropriately inoculate forage legumes to maximise performance, apply phosphorus and sulphur at sowing, and pay particular attention to sowing depth to optimise establishment.”
For more information on forage crop options or to read Dr Bell’s Updates presentation visit the GRDC website via this link and search for the 2015 Update papers which can be found via this link.
Dr Lindsay Bell, CSIRO Researcher
07 4688 1221/ 0409 881 988
Ellen McNamara, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0429 897 129