Grazing canola could be the answer to covering bare soils this autumn and offering growth with winter rain, according to a southern NSW agronomist.
Mark Lucas, from Pasture Agronomy Services, Gundagai, said the grazing canola Hyola 970CL was the “toughest thing out” and could go to “hell and back with moisture deficit”.
Mr Lucas said the grazing canola could be sown early in February/March and would deliver rapid growth.
“The Hyola 970CL and Phoenix CL will not run into head unless they go through a cold period,” he said.
He said the canola varieties offered herbicide flexibility, a growth period extending from March to December, and could produce harvest yields of six tonnes/ha.
Ideally, it is sown at 3 kg/ha but the seed is costly at $33 to $35 a kilogram and roughage was needed to supplement the livestock grazing it.
Speaking at a Wodonga conference, Mr Lucas gave the date for sowing autumn pastures as March 10 when soil temperatures would be at 27°C or below in the eastern Riverina.
Mr Lucas said soil tests showed the eastern Riverina and Upper Murray were in good shape with adequate organic matter levels.
Soil audits at four sites revealed phosphorus levels in 2017 of 23 ppm at Gundagai, and Adjungbilly, 26 at Holbrook and 28 in the Upper Murray.
This year, those figures had risen to 26 at Gundagai, and fallen to 19 at Adjungbilly, 23 at Holbrook, and 18 at Upper Murray.
Mr Lucas said the ideal range was 20 to 30 parts per million.
“We have another tough four to eight weeks in front of us,” he said.
“This new challenge in our climate is the only reliable moisture we have is winter with more failed springs in the last decade than the Riverina has even known.
“As a hotter environment happens, we’ve got to look at how grasses respond to that.
“Lush and leafy tetraploid rye-grass have big cell walls and are prone to hot weather.
“Although it is the best nutrition, it is the plant which can bring you undone.”
Mr Lucas said some pasture blends were being modified to cope with hotter, drier conditions.
“If we are putting in a short-term pasture this year, we’ve got to look at something that can wag its tail at the end of the season.
“We can’t just have it grow like a normal eastern Riverina pasture which germinates in mid March and stops growing on Melbourne Cup Day.
“Those dates don’t fit any longer because we are not getting our spring.”
Mr Lucas said chicory, grazing tolerant lucerne varieties, Strategic Carryover and Stamina blends, and the hardier Italian rye-grasses would work for many pastures this year.
“We need to have more summer dormant pastures including the Mediterranean fescues,” he said.
“Every time a plant tries to grow in summer, it is using energy out of the crown, depreciating its survival.
“A perennial pasture is the best weed control and gives the cheapest cost of production, so it doesn’t need to be re-sown every year.
“And, Economax will be a big winner this year as we need to repair a bare soil surface as quick as we can.”
Mr Lucas said the long-seasoned Goliath brassica was ideal for nitrogen utilisation post drought in stock containment areas and gave annual grass control.
He said the new ForageMax herbicide enabled Bathurst burr and fat hen to be controlled in canola crops.