Winter forage sowing tips

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Agronomist, Georgie Oakes

Many landholders across the Northern Tablelands are enjoying a mild summer. On the western side of the region we are still seeing summer pastures actively growing. You may even have noticed some Bromus sp., typically a cool season annual, taking advantage of the conditions.

With plentiful summer grass and reduced stocking densities, now is the ideal time to allow these pastures to drop seed and replenish the seed bank for future years.

As we head into Autumn, our summer pasture quality (protein and energy) will decline. Even though some of our winter species could germinate earlier than usual due to cooler overnight temperatures, we are still likely to see a short feed gap.

Here are some points for you to consider if you are contemplating your winter forage options:

  • Current (summer) weed burden on the paddock - know which weeds to control prior to planting. If using a herbicide, ensure an appropriate product is used and the label is adhered to. Be aware of any plant backs that could pose a risk to planted crops.
  • Soil moisture in the profile - do some digging to assess the soil moisture in each paddock. If the soil types are varied over the paddock, which can often be the case in the Northern Tablelands, put the shovel in all soil types and at different depths.
  • Soil nutrition and constraints - know the soil nutrient levels including pH, aluminium and salts. These may have changed since your last soil test due to the recent rainfall. Commercial fertiliser is difficult to source and is expensive so if you are investing in a crop, adequate soil nutrition is very important if you want the best bang for your buck.
  • Timing of required feed in individual operations will drive forage variety selection - when does the farming enterprise require the forage? Is it at joining, calving, weaning, or finishing?
  • Winter weed/rust/pest history of the paddock - know what the winter weed history of this forage paddock is and plan for managing it. Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) can be a problem in the Northern Tablelands. Treatment of seed prior to planting is advisable to reduce forage and grain losses.

After considering the above, you will be able to select the most appropriate forage variety for your enterprise. Alternatively, you may decide that a winter dominant pasture mix is an option if weed burdens are low and soil moisture is high.

For more information and advice about winter forage options, please contact your Local Land Services Agronomist on 1300 795 299 or visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au for the Winter Crop Variety Sowing Guide.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie 0429 626 326

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