Tips for successful pasture establishment
By Adrian Smith, Senior Land Services Officer
With strong livestock prices holding, and hopes of a good season break, many producers may be considering renovating existing pastures or establishing new ones.
There are several keys to successful pasture establishment.
Establishing new pastures can cost over $200 per hectare, so it is important to ensure you get a good result! Plan well in advance of sowing, considering factors such as soil limitations and weed and pest control.
- Soil fertility
A soil test will identify any issues that need correcting, such as acidity, nutrient status and potential imbalances or toxicities.
- The right variety
Species choice should be based around soil type, rainfall, maturity and frost tolerance. A mix of legumes and grasses will provide high quality pastures..
Always use high-quality, certified seed. Seed cost is a relatively small component of the overall budget, and certified seed will ensure high germination rates and minimise any impurities – especially weed seeds.
Seed treatment is also important. If sowing legumes, you should inoculate with the correct strain of rhizobia, but also consider other treatments to minimise losses from diseases and pests.
- Correct seeding rate
Lowering seeding rates will result in poor production and encourage weeds to germinate and establish. Always note the recommended seeding rate, and if conditions are less than ideal, consider increasing the rate.
- Sow with good soil moisture
Favourable conditions are desirable for at least two weeks after sowing. Aim to sow with a good profile of moisture. Sowing dry is not recommended, while sowing into the late autumn-winter will reduce pasture establishment, growth and production.
- Seedbed preparation
Whatever method you choose (direct drill, prepared seedbed or broadcast), critical things are:
- Sow seed shallow. Sowing too deep will significantly reduce germination and establishment. Dropping seed on the surface can often lead to ‘harvesting’ by ants, or the seed drying out before the root enters the soil.
- Aim to sow to a depth of 1-2 cm, cover lightly with soil, and get good seed-soil contact.
Watch your newly established pasture for weeds and pests, particularly red-legged earth mites and aphids. Get on top of these early.
- Grazing management
Appropriate grazing management in the first year is critical.
- Don’t graze too early – plants must resist being ‘pulled out’,
- Graze lightly to encourage tillering and good root development
- Ensure good seedset by minimising grazing during the flowering and seed production period.
For further specific information, contact the Agriculture team at Murray Local Land Services, your agronomist or seed supplier.