How to get the most out of a tough season
Originally posted by The Land.
During one of the worst droughts in living memory, conditions are tough. But by understanding these conditions and planning ahead, there are also opportunities.
By putting plans in place now, farmers can not only make the best of the season, but also take steps to increase productivity in the future.
Incitec Pivot Fertilisers Agronomist Jim Laycock said that this season is all about seizing the opportunities when they arrive to increase dry matter product or establish a fodder crop.
Getting the most out of your paddock starts with soil testing, and those figures are the best way for farmers to make an objective judgement about the right treatment for each paddock.
“Doing soil testing and looking at your past soil tests from the last couple of years can help assess the responsiveness of the paddocks,” Mr Laycock said.
“From the soil test values plus an assessment of botanical composition, you can determine which pasture paddocks need a fertiliser application to increase productivity, or those that already have higher soil nutrient levels that may not respond to fertiliser application.”
“And keep in mind, you want to have at least 70 per cent ground cover to retain the nutrients applied during topdressing, and prevent nutrients from entering waterways and water storages.”
While it may be tempting in tough years to not apply any fertiliser, there may be longer term yield penalties if you don’t.
Without maintaining a reasonable level of soil nutrition, levels can decline over time, so Mr Laycock believes it’s best to not go to zero-application if it can be avoided.
“It can be a slow creep. So you may say, ‘the pastures look really good this year, I won’t apply my phosphorous and my sulphur’, and the next year you look and you say, ‘well they don’t look too bad either’,” he said.
“But by the third year effectively you can be looking at potentially a 20 per cent reduction in yield due to declining soil phosphorus levels below the optimum.”
By having that soil data available, and setting a plan in place, you can stay on the front foot and either sow a forage crop, or increase growth and extend the life of some existing pastures once the conditions present themselves, particularly before winter sets in.
“Things are really tough and we know they are, but have a plan to take an opportunity when it presents itself. Have your information available, know what you’re going to do, and when it does rain, execute those plans as they’re the ones that will help you get through this season,” Mr Laycock said.
For more tips on taking home-grown pasture to new heights, visit Ground Rules.