Benatas Purple Vetch - a new legume option for the Western District

With a need to produce high protein hay for dairy farmer clients, Stewart and Vicky French were keen to incorporate a highly productive legume option into their cropping rotation.

The Frenchs operate a 400-hectare cropping enterprise at Vite Vite near Derrinallum in the Western District of Victoria.

Along with a requirement for hay production, they also needed the legume to assist in grass weed control and nitrogen fixation for the following crop.

It’s for these reasons the Frenchs accepted the recommendation of their local agronomist to try Benatas Purple Vetch from Stephen Pasture Seeds, and the decision has proven to be a good one.

Benatas Purple Vetch is a new cool season annual legume that is generally considered an alternative to Popany in longer growing regions such as the Western District of Victoria.

It is later flowering than Popany, soft seeded and tolerant of moderate waterlogging, and can grow in both acidic and alkaline soil conditions.

The Frenchs have used Benatas vetch to produce high protein hay as well as control grass weeds on their farm at Vite Vite near Derrinallum
The Frenchs have used Benatas vetch to produce high protein hay as well as control grass weeds on their farm at Vite Vite near Derrinallum
The Frenchs planted 20 hectares of Benatas Purple Vetch in late April 2017 at 40kg/ha. The seed was sown with a granular inoculant which was “very easy to use” compared to the normal peat, according to Vicky French.

“It grew extremely well and managed to get through our wet autumn/winter season in 2017, which was great,” she explains.

“In November we cut it for hay but unfortunately it rained following cutting. However, we eventually baled approximately 120 tonnes from the 20 hectares, which is around 6 tonnes to the hectare.

“We did a feed test of the hay and it went 88% DM (dry matter) and 20% CP (crude protein), which we were happy with considering the amount of rain post-cutting,” Vicky says.

Benatas Purple Vetch provides flexibility within cropping rotations, as it can be used as a pasture, for hay/silage or as a green manure crop.

Importantly, growing Benatas Purple Vetch in crop rotations can also be a very good strategy for controlling herbicide resistant grass weeds, because it will be grazed or cut before the grasses have formed or set seed. As a vetch, it also brings the added benefit of providing a disease break from cereal diseases.

“We will be growing Benatas Purple Vetch again in 2018, but this year our agronomist suggested to put a small amount of canola with the vetch at sowing to hold the plants up and provide a framework for the vetch to grow on,” Vicky explains. “It would also help to provide more structure when cutting and raking the hay, without negatively affecting the hay quality. The other option of course is to include a forage oat at a low rate to do the same job.”

“The other benefit for including canola is that it still enables us to use a grass selective herbicide to control annual grasses in the crop,” concluded Vicky.

Share this page