18 January 2013
Last summer was a washout for farmers from across the UK and Ireland, with many starting 2013 with unhealthy, damaged and unproductive grassland.
But to help farmers improve and prepare their swards for this year's growing season, specialist grass seed breeder Barenbrug has produced an informative video offering guidance on how to identify an unproductive sward and rectify the problem.
In the four-minute video - which can be viewed by clicking our logo - agricultural research and development manager, David Long, shows farmers how to identify common problems like stress, disease incidence and compacted soil structure, and offers guidance on how to restore a sward to productivity.
As he explains: "To get the best out of their swards in 2013, farmers must correct the problems in their grass fields. Otherwise they will end up with lower yields and another expensive winter of buying-in feed to replace lost production."
David says that most grass swards are suffering from the combined effects of the continual rainfall and damage caused by the need to feed stock. "Fields are looking an unhealthy shade of yellowy-green; a firm indicator of severe stress. This stress has two main sources - disease and soil structure - and it will have a detrimental effect on production and persistency, and cause the sward to fill up with weed grasses."
Disease and, specifically, Drechslera leaf spot is caused by the wet conditions combined with varietal susceptibility. "As well as reducing the feed value and palatability of the plant, Drechslera weakens the plant, reducing persistency and making it more susceptible to winter kill," David continues. "Grazing the sward will remove the diseased leaves, promoting healthy re-growth."
Soil structure also needs to be addressed. "Soil structure is much more of a problem. The weight of water that has fallen this year combined with the weight of harvesting equipment and grazing animals has created shallow 'pans' in many grass fields. The effect is to restrict root growth to the top 10cms, and also to stop slurry and rainfall penetrating the soil. This means the roots are growing in a wet sludge, while beneath the compaction the soil is dry. In a normal, healthy soil structure, the grass roots will penetrate over 30cms and the structure will be kept open by worms, allowing slurry and rainfall to penetrate. But, by restricting root growth to the top 10cms, the plant's access to nutrients is limited, reducing growth and favouring the growth of shallow-rooted species like meadow grass."
Fortunately, David provides practical tips on how to restore productivity through successful renovation and overseeding, as shown in the video. "We hope farmers find the video useful as they prepare for the 2013 growing season," David concludes.