Summer forage crops under the spotlight

04 Mar, 2013 03:00 AM

IT WASN’T necessarily the greatest year for summer crops in Victoria, due to the almost complete lack of rainfall, but some researchers feel they could have a good fit on an opportunity basis.

A series of Grain and Graze workshops, to be held in the Western District from March 13 to 15 will look at potential benefits of summer cropping, such as extra summer fodder and a lower weed burden.

The forums will be held at Dunkeld on March 13, Skipton on March 14 and Inverleigh on March 15 and will also look at how to best use lucerne in a mixed farming system.

Importantly, they will also address the vexed question of how to successfully remove a lucerne stand at the end of its rotation.

Regional co-ordinator with the Grain and Graze program, Cam Nicholson, says the seminars bring together four years of trials on some important issues facing cropping and livestock farmers, and look at some novel ideas for the region.

'Our winter cropping systems are being challenged by the rising cost of weed control, nitrogen fertiliser and waterlogging and all livestock farmer value extra feed over summer'.

'We need to develop a system that uses a fodder phase in the rotation to help achieve weed control, allows us to increase our natural input of nitrogen and to make better use of our annual rainfall' Cam said.

Presenters will include Western District-based agronomist David Watson on his research into using lucerne in the crop rotation, the best methods and timing to remove established lucerne and the best crop to follow the lucerne phase.

Mr Watson has also done some work on using summer forages to utilise summer soil moisture and the impact on the next crop.

“We were surprised that the summer fodder crops had minimal impact on the following winter crop yet enabled us to grow significant amounts of feed and helped to control summer weeds,” he said.

Unlike in northern Victoria, where the emphasis is on storing as much moisture as possible, Mr Watson said having a summer crop remove some water out of the soil profile could be beneficial to the following winter crop.

Some other options include new varieties of canola, which can be spring-sown to provide feed over summer.

Southern Farming Systems research co-ordinator Annieka Paridaen has been leading the work on other fodder options including the spring sown canola, which is used for fodder over summer and then taken through for grain.

‘Results from the first year of spring sown canola show a lot of promise as an alternative to a typical summer crop, with the benefit of also getting a pretty handy grain yield at harvest’.

Fodder options such as sub and balansa clover, serradella, peas, annual ryegrass and fodder cereals are also being explored to control the rapidly growing problems with annual ryegrass and wild radish.

The seminars will feature an update on grazing crops, with reports on grazing canola, the long term impact on soils and weeds by grazing cereals in summer and winter and early attempts with pasture cropping.

Seminars will be held at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld on March 13 and repeated at the Inverleigh Golf Club on March 14 and the Skipton Golf Club on March 15. Start time is 8.30 am to 3.00 pm.

For more details call SFS on 03 5265 1666 or



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