Choice chicory – the alternative choice to traditional summer crops

Shaun Mahony, Stephen Pasture Seeds, Central & Southern Victoria

Choice Chicory

Chicory makes a great alternative to traditional rape and turnip summer crops. Choice chicory is a deep rooted perennial herb that is summer active resulting in excellent feed quality over the warmer months when grass quality has declined.

Choice chicory offers a lot more than just good quality feed. Unlike rape and turnips, chicory is not susceptible to diamond back moth (DBM) and cabbage white butterfly making it a great option for areas with a history of these pests. Chicory is also able to handle hot conditions and due to its deep tap root can handle dry periods once established. 

As chicory is summer active, it prefers to be spring sown into warm soils of 12°C plus. The ideal sowing depth is about 10mm and drilled with some fertiliser such as MAP or DAP. As with all crops, seed bed preparation and weed control is vital for the best establishment.

Choice is a very versatile variety and can also be mixed with other plant species or sown as a pure stand. Choice is often mixed with Tonic plantain and Winfred forage brassica (e.g. SPS Forage Blend Plus or MAXImiser™ Winfred ‘n’ Herbs) or in a mix with Tonic plantain, Hunter forage brassica and white clovers (e.g. SPS Hunter ‘n’ Herbs). Both of these mixes are spring sown with the brassica providing extra tonnage at the first grazing as well as improving protein levels. In the autumn time the rape thins out and Knight Italian ryegrass can be over sown into the existing herbs and established white clover to boost production. Alternatively Choice chicory is often mixed with Tonic plantain and millet (e.g. SPS Millet ‘n’ Herbs) for excellent feed quality that is tolerant of heat and resistant to DBM and cabbage white butterfly.

Choice Chicory Nov 16
Choice chicory at Clint and Catherine Ryan’s property near Cobden, Victoria

Choice chicory has a big fit on many farm classes provided there is some moisture available over the summer period. Chicory is often used on dairy farms as a summer crop that has the ability to provide spring through to autumn feed but persistence is greatly dependent on how wet the winter is. Choice has been shown to improve milk production in trials when compared to ryegrass over late spring through to autumn. Chicory also has elevated mineral contents of zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium and potassium which can be very beneficial to all classes of stock.

 

On farm experience with Choice chicory has also been very impressive. Choice is grown all over the East coast of Australia, along with Tasmania and South Australia. Specifically near Cobden (South West Victoria), Choice has persisted through the past couple of dry seasons resulting in green high quality feed. Clint and Catherine Ryan milk 200 cows on about 120ha calving June to August. Clint spring sows Choice and Winfred in a custom mix of 6kg/ha of Choice plus 1kg/ha of Winfred. “The Winfred provides some quick bulk feed and enables Choice to get established,” Clint explains. “I’m still learning the full potential of Choice chicory but I’m very impressed with how much feed we got off it,” referring to the dry summer. For extra winter production Clint over sows annual ryegrass to boost winter feed for the herd. The Ryan’s manage their chicory paddocks by hard grazing in the following spring to reduce excess stalks, but are also prepared to top the paddock if the cows get too fussy. Removing the stalk promotes fresh vegetative growth and prevents crown damage and rot resulting in improved persistence.

 

When asked the biggest limitation of Choice chicory Clint describes the lack of registered chemicals for use over chicory in Australia in particular for control of broadleaf weeds compared to New Zealand that have some registered chemical options for chicory.

 

For more information on Choice chicory please contact AusWest Seeds (NSW & QLD) 1800 224 987 or Stephen Pasture Seeds (VIC,SA,TAS) on 03 5335 8055.  

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