Forge Creek beef and cropping farmer, and Gippsland Agricultural Group chief executive, Trevor Caithness, is confident relay cropping has a lot to offer the region's producers.
Relay cropping is the practice of effectively continuously cropping a paddock without fallow time, by sowing a second crop into an existing crop.
GAgG is trialling relay cropping at the Gippsland Research Farm near Bairnsdale, as well as at four farms in diverse areas like Orbost, Giffard and Winnindoo.
At Forge Creek, the Caithness' paddock is 55 hectares and split into three applications sown on October 14 by a fixed-wing plane.
In the paddock at the time stood a full crop of planet barley.
About 18ha was sown with Q31 lucerne and red clover, the second 18ha with Q31 lucerne and Persian clover and the third block sown with Q31 and Arrowleaf clover.
Seed was sown into good moisture and had good follow up rain in October, November and December.
Mr Caithness has had some experience with relay crops over the past five years, playing around with varieties of brassicas and millets and other predominantly small seed species.
"The point is to try and keep ground cover over our soils during summer," Mr Caithness said.
"Dry standing stubble does nothing for soil biology over those hot, dry summer months.
"We're trying to keep soil covered with something that's of valuable feedstuff for livestock."
While the high-rainfall season has most assuredly had a helping hand in the strike rate, the paddock has also had good soil and grazing management.
"This year, being a wet season, we thought it would be interesting if we could get higher-value crops established," he said.
"We were also exploring the option of being able to plant earlier in the spring to allow for better establishment."
The barley was harvested conventionally in late December and stored on the farm.
Mr Caithness said there was a small amount of green material of the clover in the barley but it didn't cause any issues.
Previously he found if sown too early, crops like millet and brassica would grow too high when it came time to harvest the original crop, and if sown too late they did not have time to establish before the heat of summer.
"We've found the lucerne has actually struggled to compete with the clovers," he said.
"Because clover is annual it's shown very quick growth. It should get going after the clover finishes."
The paddock was set-stocked with cattle in mid-January with 190 head weighing about 450kg.
The mob grazed for 28 days, achieving an average daily weight gain of 0.95kg a day, which Mr Caithness said added up significantly.
"We wanted to put good data together to go with the trial," he said.
"If you calculate that out, 190 head by 0.95kg a day over 28 days is just over 5000kg.
"Multiply that by $6 a kilogram and that's more than $30,000.
"The total cost of seed and aeroplane sowing was $10,000."
GAgG general manager Jen Smith said the project had wide-reaching benefits across the Gippsland community.
"Climate variability, soil degradation and depletion of natural resources are major challenges to agricultural crop production," Ms Smith said.
"GAgG seeks to investigate the breakthrough innovation of relay cropping to increase production sustainably and substantially with minimal risk to both the natural resource base and agricultural business.
"Relay cropping has the potential to improve soil quality, increase net return, while fully utilising available soil resources and seasonal rainfall availability."
Ms Smith said one of the major aims of the project was to help local farmers "improve their ability to sustainably utilise their land and increase resilience in the face of the climate variability".
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