Temperate pasture sowing this year?

Clare's checklist

Tablelands Telegraph - February 2022

Clare Edwards, Senior Land Services Officer, Pastures

After a number of difficult drought years and two welcome good years, many producers are turning their thoughts to sowing new pastures.

One of the reasons to consider sowing new introduced pastures might include changing the current botanical composition. This involves reducing the annual weeds such as vulpia, barley grass and thistles and the perennial weeds like yorkshire fog, bent grass, etc. Other reasons to consider pasture improvement include introducing new species for increased pasture quality, disease resistance and to better match feed availability with animal production.

When thinking about what to sow, many producers are also now considering climate change impacts and increasing the diversity of species.

Temperate pasture sowing this autumn (2022) presents a few interesting challenges. Here is a special checklist for this year’s obstacles.

  1. Identify current botanical species in your pasture.

    Studies have shown that temperate pastures are ideally composed of a majority of perennial grass plants. If the pastures are degraded, the question needs to be asked: what has led to the pasture becoming degraded? Reasons might include grazing management over drought years, soil conditions such as fertility decline or acid soils, etc. Understanding the previous conditions will also help with determining future management.

    Lastly, before you remove or change your perennial native grass-based pastures, it is important to consider that native groundcover is subject to the NSW Land Management Framework and other NSW and federal biodiversity conservation laws and regulations, unless otherwise authorised. Landholders are encouraged to contact their Local Land Services office for advice on their specific circumstances.

    For further information on making decisions on rejuvenating pastures, this article can help.

    Importantly there are several techniques to improve pasture composition. Not all include total replacement or re-sowing. There are non-sowing options such as grazing management, herbicides, fertiliser and soil ameliorants, that can all be useful. Other methods which included minimal intervention, such as over-sowing with legumes into an existing pasture, can be worthwhile and not as expensive as a complete re-sow. This method is also good for minimising disturbance and is a quick method when there is a good pasture base to work with.

  2. Preparation – this will be critical this year. Weed control and biomass management will be essential for success if you decide on a total replacement. Weed management 2 to 3 years prior to sowing will make an enormous difference in the establishment and long-term survival of a new pasture. The quantity of ‘trash’ or biomass may also impact on pasture establishment. Additionally, seed germination diseases can be more prevalent when there is higher biomass at establishment.
  3. Check soil fertility and other soil constraints. With potential limitations on the supply of nutrient inputs and increasing costs, soil testing will be important in determining appropriate levels and requirements.
  4. Consider grazing management as an option. Strategic grazing can be a powerful tool in changing pasture botanical composition and manipulating pasture availability and feed quality. It can also be an important management tool in a year with large amounts of pasture on offer following a wet summer. Three issues that are highlighted this year include:
    1. Tiller shading in perennial grasses may reduce the potential for future pasture growth.
    2. Sub clover requires light to help in germination. As an annual, it needs an ‘open’ pasture in autumn to facilitate establishment for winter.
    3. Pasture quality availability maybe lower overall. This bulk of feed maybe lower in quality as many of the grasses are in their reproductive phase. However, letting pastures seed down is a useful tactic in promoting the recovery of pastures. Note that some species recruit better than others from this method. Recruitment of this seed in autumn also relies on reduced biomass at that time.
  5. Don’t forget the pasture sowing principles. The fundamentals should not be overlooked. The NSW DPI Temperate pasture establishment guide goes into detail on all of the fundamentals.

Finally, Central Tablelands pasture officers Phil Cranney (0458 745 478) and Clare Edwards (0428 435 615) are happy to discuss your pasture options, strategies and paddock planning.

Phil Cranney (based in Orange) covers parts of Bathurst, Blayney, Cowra, Orange and Cabonne areas.

Clare Edwards (based in Mudgee) covers parts of Bathurst, Mid-Western, Lithgow and Oberon areas.

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