Top five points for pasture planning

Contributor: Matt Cheminant, Stephen Pasture Seeds, South Australia

Your property and production system is unique, therefore there are many factors that require consideration when deciding on what to plant as a pasture. We have outlined our top five points to get you started.

1. What are your enterprise needs?

It is a good idea to know your enterprise needs when entering into the planning phase of your pasture renovation. At the end of the day what are you going to do with the new pasture? Will it be used to just graze animals on, used for hay or silage production, or both?
Haymaker 700
SPS Signature Range 700 (ryegrass) establishing well in a prepared seed bed with timely insect sprays applied.

4. Sowing

Most species used in establishing pastures are small seeded therefore they are sown at a shallow depth of between 10 to 20mm’s. A seed drill is recommended to get good seed placement as well as the incorporation of a pre-plant fertiliser. This will provide good seed and soil contact and allow for a much more uniform germination. If the soil type is light to medium, there is a recommendation that it be rolled. This also aids in good seed to soil contact and can allow for a barrier spray for insects to be applied for additional protection.

5. Insects & Weed Control

Insects such as red legged earth mite (RLEM) and slugs are some of the most common issues when establishing a new pasture. Insects should be monitored closely and at the first signs of activity it is recommended that you spray insecticides. Seed treatments are recommended as they provide protection for the first four to six weeks after sowing. We offer Soweasy Kickstart™ as a seed treatment option, a combination of inoculant using the correct nitrogen fixing bacteria for legumes and Poncho® Plus insecticide. Weed control in any new pasture will ensure its success through reduced competition. If you find that you have weeds invading your new pasture it is a good idea to obtain agronomic advice to take care of the weeds as soon as possible.

It is important not to skip any of these steps in a well-planned pasture improvement. Success comes from good planning in all facets of your pasture.

Cockchafer Damage_Jan17
This establishing pasture was damaged by cockchafers
2. Soil & Fertility

Soil type and fertility will also affect the planning process. Different species require different soil types. Some species like heavier soils while others a light soil type. It is a good idea to get a soil test. A soil test can help with determining pH and what levels of nutrients, for example, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, you have. By getting a soil test done you can make management decisions that will not only help with the planning but also the ongoing management of the new pasture. A soil test can tell you if there is a need to apply lime or gypsum but can also help with the need to apply macro and micro nutrients. There is a need to use a fertiliser when planting but without a soil test you may be using too much or too little to get your pasture established. Trace elements may also need to be applied by foliar application to help with the establishment and longevity of a new pasture. Soil testing can also help to determine if there are any nutrient toxicity in a soil that will also hamper not only the establishment but the selection of a new pasture.

3. Climate

Climate is one of the most important determining factors of determining what to grow. Regions with lower rainfall and dry summers will require deep rooted species. Higher rainfall areas are more suited to the establishment of ryegrass. The climatic factor can be alleviated if there is irrigation available.

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