Trial to increase organic matter

Bungunya district farmer and woolgrower James Rae, Windamall, has planted a multi-species crop for the first time

Cropping
Bungunya district farmer and woolgrower James Rae, Windamall, has planted tillage radish and field peas with his oats and barley and is now feeding it to his sheep.

Bungunya district farmer and woolgrower James Rae, Windamall, has planted tillage radish and field peas with his oats and barley and is now feeding it to his sheep.

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Multi-species crop are to lift the organic matter in soil and has a secondary use as a by-product to fed livestock.

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Bungunya district farmer and woolgrower James Rae, Windamall, has planted a multi-species crop to lift the organic matter in his soil and use it as a by-product to his fed his sheep.

Mr Rae said he was attracted to the idea of the trial after it was suggested by his agronomist, Ian Moss, of Farm Agromony, Goondiwindi.

"I also watched as the Fairfax family from Kioma trialled the multi-crop idea with great success," he said.

Mr Rae planted one kilogram of tillage radish to the hectare, along with 20kg of oats, 20kg of barley and 20kg of field peas over 80 hectares in late March.

Multi-species cover cropping is gaining popularity with farmers for its ability to improve soil health, and has the potential to reverse damage caused by years of conventional full tillage farming practices.

As soil health improves, input costs on fertiliser and chemicals decrease, while cash crop yields increase.

A cover crop also opens up opportunities for alternative revenue streams through livestock grazing before the cash crop goes back in.

"If my soil tests comeback to tell me that I have lifted the organic matter in my soil I will bring that into my cereal farming rotation," Mr Rae said.

"This really is a much cheaper and more beneficial option than using a ripper."

Mr Rae planted his multi species oats crop on the back of 88 millimetres of rain.

Since then he has had combined in-crop falls of 35mm, receiving 10mm in May and 25mm in June.

He has gone on to plant a winter crop of 320ha of barley, 300ha of wheat and 200ha of chickpeas, which he plants in a three year rotation.

"It is definitely not easy nurturing the crop through and in an ideal world a good couple of inches of rain would be very handy," he said.

Now his multi-species crop is through he is feeding it to his 1600 breeding ewes including 350 of his twinning ewes.

"It is really giving the sheep more variety and they are eating the pods from the field peas, and eating the main radish body but leaving the bushy tops."

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