Shining a light on pasture cropping

Warwick Badgery and Geoff Millar
NSW DPI researchers, Warwick Badgery and Geoff Millar, have published research findings on pasture cropping in a new Primefact. Dr Badgery said the system sows cereals directly into summer-active perennial pastures, like this native Redgrass, Bothriochloa macra.

New research results from NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) trials which put pasture cropping under the spotlight are now available to farmers.

Outlining the pros and cons of the innovative system the Pasture cropping Primefact has been published on the NSW DPI website.

NSW DPI research agronomist, Warwick Badgery, said pasture cropping may not fit every operation but properly managed and under the right conditions the farming system can maximise the use of whole-farm resources to increase productivity.

"The existing farming system, pastures types, soil and climate are all factors which impact on its success," Dr Badgery said.

"We’re still to see its long-term consequences and management implications but our trials have generated some valuable information for farmers to consider.

"Pasture cropping sows cereals directly into summer-active perennial pastures and crop yields comparable with conventional rotation systems can be gained if weeds are effectively managed and adequate levels of soil fertility and moisture are available.

"The key to improved profitability in a pasture cropping system is efficient use of additional forage with a livestock operation to compensate for any reductions in crop yield which may occur."

A four-year study with  two  trial sites near Wellington tested the farming system developed in the central west and compared results with no-till cropping and low-input pastures.

Dr Badgery said pasture cropping exploits the different growth phases of  annual winter crops and perennial grasses, particularly native pastures, so crops are sown into pasture after the first annual frost when perennial grasses become dormant.

"Late sowing or selective herbicides can reduce competition at the start of the cropping phase and shading from the crop delays growth of summer-active grasses until the canopy opens when the crop matures.

"Pasture growth during summer can prevent the build-up of soil nutrients and moisture, reducing crop performance in many areas, but input costs are reduced as fallowing is not required and fertiliser can be matched to the available soil moisture at sowing."

The research was funded by the Central West/Lachlan branch of Grain & Graze - a national program which partners the Grains Research & Development Corporation, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation Limited and Land & Water Australia.

Contact: Bernadette York 0427 773 785. Photographs available on request