Two words crop up time and time again in discussion with farmers, agronomists, plant breeders and others invested in pasture production: density (plant numbers per ha) and persistence (plant longevity).
In most cases, persistence is second only to yield when it comes to farmers’ primary objectives with growing perennial ryegrass.
“For all the effort invested into getting sward established, you want to see it hang around for a few years,” says Agriseeds lower South Island agronomist Alan Harvey.
“That means doing things right from the get go. Cultivar selection; ground preparation; sowing methods; sowing rates; pest, disease and weed control; grazing management and many other factors influence the longevity of a productive pasture.”
As usual during winter, Alan’s recently been busy maintaining, scoring and reporting on a wide range of lower South Island pasture trials, and he says clear differences are now visible under both dairy and sheep/beef systems sown in different parts of the region.
“These are trials which have been in the round for five-plus years, all treated the same, under normal farm management, but some now look very different to others. Those variations in persistency and performance are the effect of pasture cultivar.
“It doesn’t take long for persistence differences to show between varieties. In most cases it’s the older pasture genetics that don’t handle the grazing pressure we subject them to in day to day farming, not to mention adverse climatic conditions, AKA winter pugging.”
Alan says this shows the importance of correct cultivar selection in any pasture renewal programme.
“If you have done everything else right but haven’t chosen the best variety for your conditions and requirements, ultimately those paddocks will have to be put back through the re-grassing programme sooner than anticipated, which costs money in the long run.
Time spent choosing the right cultivar and endophyte to best suit your situation is always well spent, he says: “If you are unsure about options are available, don’t hesitate to contact either myself or Riley Cooper.”