New approach to sowing mixed pasture a winner

An alternative approach to planting mixed fescue and lucerne pastures is providing benefits for farmers who have noticed a more effective and reliable establishment of their pastures.

Brad Payne from Maccallum Inglis Scone instigated alternate or skip row sowing establishment, which sees alternate rows of Flecha Mediterranean tall fescue and winter active Titan 7 lucerne sown throughout the paddock. There have been a number of studies conducted that show sowing each species in alternate rows gives a more successful and consistent establishment of the pasture sward.
This mixed fescue and lucerne paddock has been carefully grazed since establishment with observations about animal preferences recorded at different times of the year.
This mixed fescue and lucerne paddock has been carefully grazed since establishment with observations about animal preferences recorded at different times of the year.

Many regions are currently experiencing increased frequency and magnitude of droughts or extended periods without significant rainfall. With predictions that these conditions are expected to become the norm rather than the exception growers are looking to species that can respond to out of season rainfall in pasture mixes.

Traditionally many graziers have used either forage or dual-purpose grazing cereals for weight gain in cattle during the winter months. Sub-tropical pastures are another alternative that have been found to be very persistent and productive through the summer months but feed quality declines quickly and they provide poor quality feed through the cooler months. This winter period is when quality feed for livestock is critical.

Many of these producers are now examining the potential of perennial winter active temperate grass pastures such as Mediterranean fescue, cocksfoot or phalaris as alternatives to the annual cereal grazing crops.

In April 2014, Brad oversaw the sowing of a paddock of Flecha Mediterranean tall fescue and Titan 7 lucerne with a Conner Shea 8000 direct drill. The Flecha was sown through one seed box and the Titan 7 sown through the other. Each alternative distributor was blocked in the seed boxes so that the fescue and lucerne was planted in alternative sowing rows. Starter 15 fertiliser was top-dressed on the paddock prior to planting since the seeder only had two seed/fertiliser boxes.

An excellent establishment of both species was achieved after a favourable autumn and excellent summer fallow which allowed sowing into a full moisture profile. Brad believes that prior weed control and building a soil moisture profile are the two most critical factors in planning to sow a pasture.

Flecha Mediterranean tall fescue is an ideal perennial grass option in summer dry environments. Its ability to shut down and avoid the stress of hot summer temperatures gives the plant the ability to recover after late summer and early autumn rains.

Auswest Seeds Territory Manager Daniel Clydsdale says “Without doubt Flecha is one of the most persistent Mediterranean fescue on the market today”. For this reason its popularity continues to increase. The very strong trigger to shut down is not without its disadvantages. The increased occurrence of summer storms has seen an increase in competitive annual grass weed invasion such as Liverseed and Barnyard grass.

With this in mind many producers are looking at adding summer active species, particularly lucerne, to capitalise on these out of season rainfall events and keep the annual summer grass weeds out of this system.

Traditionally these fescue/lucerne pastures would be sown as a mix in the same sowing row and therefore competing against each other for nutrients and water. This generally sees one of the species, depending on the conditions at sowing, become the dominant species in the pasture sward.

Since establishment, the Flecha and Titan 7 skip row paddock has been carefully grazed with observations about animal preferences at different times of the year. The success of the paddock will be monitored over the next couple of years but at this early stage the results are promising.

Share this page