Agronomy on show at Mudgee

When it comes down to it, it's hard to go past forage oats

Mudgee News
Pasture Genetics North West and Central NSW territory manager Jack Edwards with a new long-season variety of forage oats, Bronco, to be released next year.

Pasture Genetics North West and Central NSW territory manager Jack Edwards with a new long-season variety of forage oats, Bronco, to be released next year.

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Despite the cold season, agronomy plots at Mudgee show resilience.

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Looking out across the agronomy plots of Mudgee Small Farm Field Days agronomist Jack Edwards, asked what crop was going to help most in these tough times, didn't take long to give a straight answer.

"As much as I want people to challenge their systems, it's still pretty hard to go past forage oats.

"There's more flogged out country around than there's ever been, and we were sold out of forage cereals long before the season began, said the Pasture Genetics North West and Central West NSW territory manager.

Originally hailing from Wellington, Mr Edwards studied agricultural science at Sydney University and has been in the field five years.

It's been a rugged start to winter around Mudgee, with statewide lows regularly recorded.

"We had a negative seven (-7 degrees Celsius) two Fridays ago and I came out and had a look and there were icicles hanging off the oats and frost at ground level still there amongst them right at the end of the day," he said.

He refers to Bronco, a new variety of long season forage oats, to be released next year.

The heavy frosts have browned the tips off a bit, but there's still plenty of feed to be had off the crop.

The Bronco was sown into moisture on March 22 and had another watering April, but other than that has been left to fend for itself.

It had a lime application equivalent of 1.5 tonnes to the hectare worked in to about 10 centimetres in February.

The new variety has been bred for improved disease tolderance and rust resistance.

Nearby a plot of the proven peformer Outback forage oats also looks thick and healthy.

Mr Edwards is a advocate for sowing annual rye grass into oats.

"You get more protein, more energy and greater palatability by adding rye, and it grows in a different canopy.

"Rye grass by itself can be a bit too much, it's a bit moist and tends to go through them, but oats in the mix firms it all up," he said.

Asked about recent studies of lime applications at depth, Mr Edwards said he had been involved in deep ripping trials some years ago and they had been effective at generally improving soil over time.

"But you can't manage what you can't measure, so you have to get soil tests, talk with your agronomist, take a look at 60cm, even a metre down, and find out what your constraints are."

He said there was definitely a case for strategic tilling every six or seven years.

In a corner near the edge of the plots the subtropicals have retreated into hibernation, mainly because of the run of extremely cold weather.

"There would normally still be a bit of green left in them," he said, "but the cold has really knocked them."

Yet he said Pasture Genetics had good stocks of tropical seed, which could be planted as soil temperatures hit 18C, which depending on where you were could be anytime from the first week of October to the first week of December.

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