Planning to sow in autumn? 7 tips to consider now!

Proper planning and preparation is essential to grow as much home grown forage as possible, and now is the time to start thinking about growing feed for next season. With many regions of Australia experiencing dry conditions and feed becoming scarce, pasture renewal is an important factor to consider before sowing time in autumn to ensure quality feed on your farm.

For successful pasture and crop establishment, preparation of paddocks is required well in advance of the time you need to sow. Here are our seven tips to get you on the front foot for autumn sowing right now.
Knight establishing | AusWest & Stephen Pasture Seeds
An establishing Knight pasture near Terang, VIC

1. What poor performing paddocks can be taken out?

What part of the farm will grow the most amount of feed?

What paddocks are suited to early sown pastures to provide quick winter feed?

Think about soil fertility, acidity, rainfall, hilly or flat paddocks and pasture composition. The size of the paddock in relation to the budget available should also be considered.

2. Can my pasture paddock be more productive without being renewed?

Effective weed control, fertiliser, rotational grazing and spelling the paddock over spring and summer are all methods of decreasing competition and increasing the growth and persistence of either introduced or native perennial grasses without the need for resowing.

3. Is the timing right?

Can I afford to have the paddock out of production for a period?

Careful planning is required to ensure that winter production of other paddocks is adequate to carry stock through winter without the use of the newly sown paddock. Other considerations include getting soil fertility and weed control right before sowing the new pasture. If the need is for a quick autumn feed maybe an annual ryegrass can be used followed by a spring sown brassica.

4. Soil
Before establishing a new pasture, it is essential that a soil test is taken well before the sowing date to allow time for correcting any soil fertility problems. Phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, soil pH, aluminium, sodium and electrical conductivity (ECe) levels need to be examined and addressed prior to sowing.

Table 1 below shows desired soil nutrient levels for sheep and beef production. Optimum soil phosphorus levels do not need to be reached prior to sowing. However, for soils with an Olsen P level of less than 12 mg/kg, capital phosphorus applications (20 – 30 kg/ha) will be required at sowing and in the following years to build fertility and gain maximum return on investment of the new pasture. It is recommended that phosphorus fertiliser is applied at sowing, even in highly fertile soils, to maximise germination and rapid growth. (Sargeant VIC DPI, 2009)

Table 1: Desired soil nutrient levels for sheep and beef production

  Optimum level Suitable fertiliser
Phosphorus (Olsen P) 12-20 mg/kg Super phosphate or diammonium phosphate
Sulphur 9-12 mg/kg Super phosphate
Potassium (Skene K) 160-300 mg/kg (depending on soil type) Potash
Aluminium (CaCl) <8 mg/kg or 3% CEC (Grass pastures)
<2 mg/kg or 1% CEC (Lucerne)
PH (CaCl) >4.8% (Grass pastures)
>5.3% (Lucerne)
Sodium >6% CEC Gypsum or lime
Electrical conductivity (ECe) Sub clover < 2 dS/m
Per ryegrass <4.5 dS/m
Phalaris <6 dS/m
Balansa clover <8 dS/m
Strawberry clover <10 dS/m
Tall fescue <10 dS/m
Tall wheat grass <25 dS/m
Puccinellia <25 dS/m
Choose suitable species based on level of salinity


5. Weeds
Reducing competition from existing weeds is one of the most crucial steps to successful pasture establishment. The first step is to identify which weeds are present and then follow a well-planned control program. In crop weed control the year prior is critical. Cutting paddock for hay and silage in spring can also remove some weed seeds. When doing this bear in mind the nutrients that you are removing from the paddock need replacing. Weeds over summer such as cape weed are ideal for maintaining high insect pressures of red legged earthmite.

6. Pests
Pests can generally be controlled in paddock at the time however some pests, particularly underground root feeding pests such as cockchafer or root aphid cannot be eliminated by pesticides in crop. New technology such as AR37 endophyte available in some perennial and Italian ryegrasses, provide natural protection from pests including root aphid, pasture mealy bug and Argentine stem weevil.

7. Selecting the right species
Choosing the right species to suit your soil type, soil fertility, rainfall and season length is a very important step towards successful pasture establishment and persistence.


Successful pasture establishment starts with planning. A rushed decision can result in late-sowing, weed invasion, low feed production in the first winter and spring that can lead to poor persistence.


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