Growing more grass at Owl Farm: Using quality cultivars and getting results

Growing more grass at Owl Farm: Using quality cultivars and getting results

25 February 2019

A Waikato demonstration farm has set a goal to improve farm profitability by having persistent and clean pastures capable of growing 16 tonnes (t) of dry matter (DM) per hectare (ha) year on year.

Based at St Peters School in Cambridge, Owl Farm is working closely with six industry partners, including Fonterra Farm Source and PGG Wrightson Seeds, to achieve the goal.

In conjunction with PGG Wrightson Seeds, Owl Farm now carries out six-monthly pasture condition scoring, a process developed by the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust. They carried out assessments in February last year to identify the lowest-performing pastures that may require renewal or undersowing. Additional assessments were carried out in August to make sure new pastures were establishing well.

Paddocks are scored between one and five with a score of one for the worst paddocks and five for the highest ryegrass persistence. From this, they can decide which paddocks are the most suitable for cropping and undersowing.

Pasture undersowing is used to give a short-term bump in pasture yield in weak paddocks if they can’t immediately drop into the cropping cycle. Farm Manager Tom Buckley says: “Lush AR37 has been a great option to bulk paddocks up for 18 to 24 months.” The AR37 endophyte helps protect against insects like Argentine stem weevil and black beetle which have been major pests at Owl Farm.

Once the crop paddocks have been identified, those with the highest weed burden or poorest yields are sprayed with glyphosate in mid-late March and drilled with Winter Star II annual ryegrass.

“The addition of the Winter Star into our autumn and winter feed budget creates a fantastic source of fast-growing and high-quality feed,” says Tom. Winter Star II is a highly productive annual that provides a bulk of high-quality dry matter over the autumn, winter and early spring period.

In late September, the annual pastures are sprayed out with glyphosate and insecticide and then direct drilled with the Cleancrop™ Brassica System. Louise Cook, demonstration manager for Owl Farm, is impressed with Cleancrop’s performance. “Cleancrop has given us a good yield of high-quality crop to cover our summer feed deficit, which is fantastic. More importantly, it’s given us a big head start on weed control in these paddocks and creates a window for autumn re-grassing as soon as the rain arrives.”

For the last four years, crops have been followed with a perennial ryegrass to complete the re-grassing cycle. Excess AR37 is the main perennial ryegrass used at Owl Farm. It’s a productive mid-season cultivar that has persisted well on the farm’s range of soil types.

This year Owl Farm is looking to use Platform AR37 which is in its second year of commercial release and sits on top of the Forage Value Index as a five-star grass.

“I’ve heard some good local feedback on how Platform AR37 is going and I look forward to putting it to the test at Owl Farm,” says Tom.

Talk with your local Farm Source TSR for further information on how the PGG Wrightson Seeds pasture range can benefit you.

Article supplied by PGG Wrightson Seeds