Improving Kale Genetics

Improving Kale Genetics

1 September 2021

SovGold is fast becoming one of New Zealand's most popular kale cultivars and since its first release to the market in 2017, SovGold has done nothing but impress. As with any new product, finding its fit in a farm system is critical.

Throughout the country, Agricom has trialled SovGold extensively to make sure dry matter (DM) production and quality would be realised for the end-user. The trialling process, however, didn't stop there. Over the last three years, the Agricom extension team has been running wide-ranging trial work to continue the understanding of SovGold's benefits as well as how to get the most out of this new and improved forage.

SovGold is a modern New Zealand-bred kale that combines excellent quality with high yield potential. In any kale, the leaf component of the plant is where the quality is at its greatest. With SovGold having large leaves that contribute to over 40% of total yield, its leaf-to-stem ratio is very high. SovGold can hold quality, resulting in high intake and utilisation, while achieving an average yield of 10-14 tonnes of DM per hectare (t DM/ha) and a yield potential of 18+ t DM/ha.

Historically, breeding a plant that has improved quality as well as increased yield has been challenging due to the two traits working against each other. However, SovGold is a very good example of an improvement in stem quality, as well as an increase in overall yield. Across 24 trials, SovGold has shown a seven percent yield advantage over and above Sovereign, Agricom's previous kale.

On top of that, it has an overall increase of 0.5 megajoules of metabolisable energy per kilogram of DM (MJME/kgDM) throughout the entire plant, with some parts of the stem having a 1.5 MJME/kgDM advantage over Sovereign. These efforts have been noticed on the farm and as a result, SovGold crops have shown incredible utilisation and animal performance.

The sowing date and timing of grazing can have a significant impact on the yield potential and quality of any kale crop. Traditionally, kale is sown between late November and early December with grazing occurring from May onwards (18-24 weeks post sowing). However, January or early February sowing is a genuine alternative to sowing rape at this time. The benefits are that SovGold will hold its leaf for longer and maintain stem quality while still having a potential yield of eight-10 t DM/ha, making it a great option for young cattle or sheep.

Being the latest flowering kale on the market, SovGold adds additional flexibility for late grazing environments throughout the South Island. Having a kale that flowers late in the season allows more time to graze the crop at its peak quality before the plant starts to put energy into flowering and consequently reducing quality - it will last and maintain quality until the start of October before the onset of flowering. It also minimises the risk of running into the potential animal health issues associated with flowering brassicas.

Since its release three years ago, SovGold has certainly been a standout in its category and has established itself as a high-yielding, user-friendly kale that is an attractive investment option for good quality winter feed on farm.

For more information about how SovGold could fit your farming system, talk to your Farm Source TSR.

Article supplied by Agricom.