Hasten slowly on post-drought pasture recovery says agronomist

Do your homework before post-drought pasture rejuvenation says consultant

Sheep
HOLD YOUR HORSES: Tumut agronomist, Nathan Ferguson, says producers should think carefully to achieve the best results when rejuvenating pastures following the recent drought and bushfires.

HOLD YOUR HORSES: Tumut agronomist, Nathan Ferguson, says producers should think carefully to achieve the best results when rejuvenating pastures following the recent drought and bushfires.

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A Tumut-based agronomist says livestock producers need to think carefully before embarking on a program to restore pastures after recent drought and bushfires.

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Recent rain has provided an ideal opportunity to renovate pastures damaged by recent drought and bushfires but producers shouldn't rush into the job.

That's the advice of Tumut-based agronomist, Nathan Ferguson, Graminus Consulting, who says stock numbers on many farms are now low which has reduced the need for a major quick boost to pasture production.

Many producers who had enjoyed recent heavy rains now had more than enough feed for their stock in the coming six months or so.

Instead he says the time is right for farmers to get the help of a "second pair of eyes" (an independent agronomist) to review the state of their pasture paddocks - including things such as soil fertility, pasture plant populations and weed problems.

Mr Ferguson told a Back to Business webinar hosted by Sheep Connect NSW that now was a good time to do soil testing to better inform pasture-renovation decisions post the drought and fires.

"If your livestock numbers are forecast to be low for the next couple of years, is there any need to rush?" he said.

"Before we do anything we need to look backwards and look at where the pasture has come from, what's the current state and also understand our feed requirements in four weeks, three months and six months time," he said.

The current abundance of feed in many areas provided an opportunity this year to oversow to add more desirable species into pastures such as legume seed into a grass-dominant pasture or annual ryegrass or winter cereal into a legume pasture.

GETTING BALANCE RIGHT: Tumut agronomist, Nathan Ferguson, says the clumps of dead phalaris in the pasture on the right has the potential to encourage more competition from weeds.

GETTING BALANCE RIGHT: Tumut agronomist, Nathan Ferguson, says the clumps of dead phalaris in the pasture on the right has the potential to encourage more competition from weeds.

But the ideal preparation for establishing a new perennial grass pasture was to start two years before sowing to provide time to spray out all weeds as well as sowing a fodder crop in year two (not ryegrass) to stop weed seed set.

He warned under-utilisation of a pasture could also cause problems.

Using a picture of two adjoining pasture paddocks at Holbrook, Mr Ferguson said one featured clumps of dead phalaris plants which reduced the space for sub-clover which then opened the door for invasion by nitrogen-hungry weeds like vulpia.

The end result would be a thinning of phalaris populations, he said.

Mr Ferguson said pastures generally recovered well after bushfires except in the case of very hot burns which destroyed all plant material and seeds.

Research from Hamilton, Victoria, indicated almost 80 per cent of ryegrass plants survived a moderate burn, for example.

But bushfires did a lot of damage to pastures when they burnt at 250 degrees C for 10 to 30 seconds, he said.

The story Hasten slowly on post-drought pasture recovery says agronomist first appeared on Farm Online.

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