EGCMA Sustainable Grazing Systems Pasture Cropping Trial

Year of study:

2010

Lead organisation & Collaborators:

EGCMA

South Farming Systems

Contact:

Nikki Hellyer, SFS

Best available science assessment:

Objectives

Conceptual model

Study design

Soil analysis

Production & financial

Method reporting

Data analysis

Results reporting

Publication

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Project details

Objectives:

Demonstrate and encourage adoption of pasture cropping and assess how pasture cropping affects soil carbon.

Hypotheses:

Pasture cropping has been shown to be effective in increasing ground cover and, over time, soil carbon. It improves perenniality of paddocks- through developing a seed bank that hasn’t germinated, disturbs soil, resulting in more perennial plants being recruited over time.

Basis of trial:

Previous trials of winter pasture cropping across southern Victoria.

Location Details:

Management practices tested:

2010-2013

Pasture cropping

Trial site details:

~650mm/a

Average- 6-10 (light soils to medium soils), red clay /loam

Various (undulating)

Pre-trial management

Targeted farmers with questionable history- stocking bare ground. Mainly sheep, some beef.

Various- common, 100kg DAP, some without

Summary of key findings of trial:

Differences in pasture composition have been observed, with increase in contribution of perennial grasses (pasture mass and # perennial species), fewer weeds and increased ground cover in pasture cropped areas. Feed quality for livestock appears to have improved. Reduced spray requirements.

 

Treatment results:

Variation in soil C with time and management influence:

Not documented. To revisit in time.

Variation in productivity/profitability with time and management influence:

Adding an annual crop to a decadal perennial pasture base. Have seen a significant difference in productivity throughout season. The theory behind it is that cultivation and establishment of cereals stimulates recruitment of perennial grasses.

Other measures of treatment response:

Differences in pasture composition have been observed, with increase in contribution of perennial grasses (pasture mass and # perennial species), fewer weeds and increased ground cover in pasture cropped areas. Feed quality for livestock appears to have improved. Reduced spray requirements.

Soil sampling method:

Normal soil test- to WA (CSBP). Get a baseline of where paddock sits. In future- come back and look at paddock again. 10cm.

At sowing/before sowing.

Corer- commercial test (NATA)

pH, organic matter, CECs, NPKs, trace elements, Ca, Mg.

Plant and/or animal production measurements:

Dry matter cuts- looking at how much could be grown

Measure dry matter cuts on a- hectare based measurement

Increased stocking and health of pastures in paddocks (visual assessment). (Increase stocking rates by another third

Cost and value of production:

Main cost-labour costs. ~$80/ha (seed and fertiliser) exclusive of contractors.

Experimental Design:

Treatments:

Herbicide to burn off pasture.

Various rates of fertiliser on each trial.

Pasture cropping. Crops sown into pasture using farmers’ own machines and typical approaches. Various oat/wheat varieties used.

Trial design:

2 big squares- minimum of 8m wide 100m long. Trial areas split into 50 m segments (control and treatment), 16 m square cordoned (in each plot) for pasture cuts. Within areas- measure perenniality by visual measurement; (within 100m), at every 1m see what plant/bare ground/weed/perennial recorded- done twice before they sown and end of season.

 

Reporting:

Reported to EGCMA and CFoC

EGCMA or Nikky Hellyer (SFS)

Level of review of results:

No review

Next steps

Pasture cropping sustainably increases production and feed quality and provides healthier paddocks and soils. It improves groundcover and provides soil disturbance, which has good feedback on soil biology The technique forces farmers to rest paddocks to stimulate growth, however some farmers still keep stock on the same paddocks. This approach hopes to encourage farmers to recognise the benefits of pasture cropping and rest paddocks.

Challenges in applying to whole farm, as paddocks need to be locked up for 6-8 weeks. Used as a management tool to renovate targeted pastures rather than for application to whole farm.

Depends on aim- ours is practice change. Trials could be more robust scientifically, but funding limitations would constrain farmers from being involved.