A great start to the season in the Albany zone has provided an opportunity for some early plant testing on canola, pastures and cereal crops.
High input prices mean that we should be more focused on what fertilisers and strategies are most effective. Plant testing crops is a critical part of the strategy and should be a high priority this season.
Plant tests so far are reflecting the excellent start we’re experiencing this year — a mild start, good soil moisture, no leaching conditions, good growing conditions, early establishment, and plenty of sunlight. These are also ideal conditions for plant sampling to determine which nutrients your paddocks and fertilisers are supplying to the crop.
Early results have been a useful guide for managing nitrogen (N) decisions for canola. Results have even shown that some crops were unlikely to respond profitably to the top-ups planned. Growers should consider plus N and minus N strips in these paddocks.
Uptake of sulfur (S) has so far been very good, as well as potassium (K) — particularly where K has been banded at seeding.
Some plant test results have been showing marginal manganese (Mn) levels, particularly where the paddocks have been clayed and/or have had large amounts of lime applied. Drilling Mn with cropping fertiliser is the most effective way to apply Mn instead of using in-season foliar sprays. CSBP’s Ag Manganese range, including K-Till Manganese and Agflow Manganese, could be considered with next season’s program.
Plant testing is the best guide we have to see whether crops and pastures are getting enough K, S and trace elements. Results from some pastures last year showed that S and K were the most limiting nutrients — not phosphorus (P).
Strategic N to boost feed
If feed is getting low, a tactic used in recent years is the targeted use of N. N can reduce the need for hand feeding by rapidly increasing the amount of green feed. Hand-feeding is costly and time-consuming — it makes sense to feed as many of your livestock as possible from pasture.
Applying N to pastures provides critical feed for pregnant and lactating animals while allowing deferral of grazing on other parts of the farm. It also increases growth rates over the slow winter months.
Nitrogen applied to grass-dominant pastures will give the best results. Pastures will respond best where soil N is low and there are no other constraints to pasture growth such as waterlogging or other nutrient deficiencies like P, K and S.
Research has shown that an extra 10 - 15 kg DM/ha can be produced over the winter for every kg N/ha applied. At current N prices, this means that an extra tonne of feed can be produced for only $180 to $270/t — on every hectare.
Best bet tactics for growing more grass
- Identify your grassy paddocks or even grassy areas of a paddock.
- Apply either 100 kg/ha urea or 100 L/ha Flexi-N just before rain.
- Defer grazing for at least 20-30 days for the best response.
- For the best advice on pasture fertiliser, talk to your CSBP account manager about using CSBP‘s Autumnburst and Grazeburst products.
As the cost to buy feed goes up, it makes sense to try and grow more feed on farm.
Image: Zak Hatfield, Esperance Account Manager, gathering plant samples south of the Stirling Range National Park.