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Stackyard News Apr 2010

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    Versatile Hybrid Brassicas Offer Solution to Forage Shortages

Livestock farmers facing the prospect of forage shortages later this year as a result of the late spring could find a solution in fast-growing hybrid brassicas for summer and autumn grazing, or even out-wintering, according to Helen Mathieu of British Seed Houses.

Helen Mathieu in Swift crop
Helen Mathieu in Swift crop

Modern New Zealand-bred varieties such as Swift and Redstart can be sown from late April through to August in most parts of the UK to produce quality fodder within 10 weeks for a range of purposes.

“These unprecedented rape/kale hybrids come from the only major breeding programme worldwide that is investing significantly in brassicas,” points out Ms Mathieu. “They can provide a ready and cost effective supply of high energy grazing for cattle and sheep and could be particularly valuable this season if livestock farmers find that slow grass growth this spring creates forage shortages later in the season.

“The best method of establishment is to drill into a fine, firm and residual-free seedbed achieved through conventional cultivations, but under the right conditions seed can be direct drilled. Using seed that is dressed with an effective all-in-one seed treatment will minimise the risks of pest, disease and even bird damage through to seedling stage.”

It is always advisable to test soils in advance so that soil nutrient levels can be corrected in the seedbed through fertilisation, says name, and additional nitrogen may be appropriate at different stages to ensure maximum returns.

“These crops are economic to grow and will provide the best returns grown to their full potential,” adds Ms Mathieu. “Swift or Redstart can produce up to 10 tonnes DM/ha, which equates to just a few pence per kilogram of dry matter.

”Crops grown for summer or early autumn grazing also have the capacity for regrowth, so can offer a second or even third grazing provided earlier grazing are managed appropriately.

“These hybrid brassicas are also suitable for out-wintering when sown later in the season, as they have similar frost resistance to the more winter-tolerant kales.”

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