Harvest trials to assess seed ryegrass

09 Oct, 2018 04:00 AM
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RESULTS of field trials on two dairy farms comparing commercial ryegrass seed performance will be presented to a Western Dairy forum next month.

Three harvests of the trial sites to compare 10 lines of ryegrass have been conducted so far since the seed was planted at both sites on May 1.

Western Dairy’s research scientist and trial manager Peter Hutton hopes three more harvests may be possible, depending on the end of the growing season, before the final analysis.

The 10 lines of ryegrass seed from a number of suppliers were planted into non-wetting sandy soil on a support block on Ray and Donna Kitchen’s Carenda dairy at Boyanup and into more fertile clay loam on a dairy platform at Matt and Angela Brett’s farm, Dardanup.

Growth rate expressed in kilograms of dry matter (DM) per hectare plus feed quality – measured by neutral detergent fibre, metabolisable energy and crude protein – are being assessed for each line under the different paddock histories.

“The purpose of the trials is to provide real-time information on the range of performance measures of different lines of ryegrass so that when our farmers make their seed selections next autumn, they do so with a greater appreciation of the differences of each,” Dr Hutton said.

“So far we are seeing some significant differences in growth patterns across the season as you might expect from the selection of early and late maturing varieties, but a fair amount of consistency in feed quality across the board.

“The more harvests we can get, the more detailed the picture we can provide when we release the results at our spring forum on November 23, but of course this will be impacted by when the growing season comes to an end.

“The average daily growth across all lines between the second and third harvest (32 days from August 2 to September 3) was 60kg DM/ha – but we saw a range of between 47 and 68kg DM/ha across the trial.”

Dr Hutton emphasised the third harvest result on its own “is just a single snapshot in time”.

“The varieties that are growing fast early may slow down later and of course the value in that depends on the individual farm circumstances of when that business is chasing most dry matter,” he said.

“But most importantly we want farmers to know they are getting what they paid for when it comes to the desired growth rates.

“A lot can change between now and the end of spring and so it will be with great interest that we provide the full analysis at the end of November.”

The performance so far after the latest harvest is available on the Western Dairy website, while the Western Dairy Facebook page has additional videos and time-lapse photography of the trial sites for farmers seeking information on the month-by-month growth and feed quality per variety.

The seed performance trials are funded by WA’s leading seed suppliers including PGG Wrightson Seeds, Irwin Hunter & Co Seeds, Landmark Dyna-Gro Seed and Heritage seeds.

“Our funders agree this is a unique opportunity to have an independent assessment of the performance of their products and have been very willing participants in what is a commercially sensitive process,” Dr Hutton said.

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