The Government’s recently announced Essential Freshwater proposals have put the spotlight on winter grazing and catch crops look set to play an important role in good winter management practices.
Catch crops such as Intimidator Oats mop up excess nitrogen in the wake of winter forage crops and turn nutrients into valuable drymatter; reducing a farm’s environmental footprint while increasing profitability.
A MPI Sustainable Farming Fund programme, cofunded by Luisetti Seeds, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Agricom, Ravensdown, Ballance Agrinutrients and other farming and industry groups, found that catch crops can take up as much as 40kg of nitrogen per hectare. Dr Peter Carey, a Lincoln Agritech Field Researcher, led the three-year programme and said that in winter forage rotations, catch crops need to be sown at the completion of the grazing period, which is often midwinter when soil and climatic conditions can be at their most difficult.
But hardy oats (particularly Intimidator Oats which were a stand-out in the trial) can be successfully established in cool conditions. Oats are cold tolerant and germinate at 5 degrees and above, reducing water in soils and removing nitrogen left in the ground from cattle urine.
“Once the soil warms, catch crops can rapidly mop-up the excess nitrogen, reducing the amount available for leaching,” says Dr Carey.
By late November, early-sown crops of green-chop silage grown on commercial farms in Canterbury and Southland were often reaching 8-10t DM/ha and capturing 100-150 kg N/ha. Dr Carey said the first year of the study showed the best results occur when the crops were sown as early as possible through direct drilling or minimum till (when the surface is pugged).
In Southland, researchers used a spader-drill which enabled much earlier drilling than was usually possible. This was critical to catch crop success in the region.
Talk to your Luisetti Seeds agronomist about using Intimidator Oats as a catch crop this spring.
On-going dry weather could mean tight feed supplies this year, so a forage crop which generates high quality feed in winter and spring will...