An Australian-first innovative cultivation calculator has been developed to help farmers assess how much cultivation work they need to make better pastures.
Multispecies pastures have amazing benefits
Having multispecies pastures can be extremely beneficial for farmers, compared to monoculture pastures. It can improve the health of the soil, animals, pastures and even people. However, it’s so hard to establish a successful multispecies pasture with so many natural factors that can ruin farmers’ work.
Introducing the new cultivation calculator
This problem can easily be solved with the new cultivation calculator! It’s an outcome of Increasing Soil Carbon and Climate Resilient Farms projects coordinated by Heytesbury District Landcare Network (HDLN).
The cultivation calculator was developed by project team members Healthy Farming Systems cover crop advisor Jade Killoran and regenerative farming advisor and partner in Camperdown Compost, Tony Evans. After witnessing the spring minimal tillage machines and the direct drilling weren’t producing successful results, they decided to carry out this project having sowing trials across 20 farms.
How does the cultivation calculator help?
The trials were based on regenerative agriculture techniques to show how enhancing soil biology and using minimal/suitable tillage methods while switching from monoculture pasture species to multispecies can bring about great advantages.
Farms in the Western District receive winter-dominant rainfall, which allows them to successfully grow autumn and winter pastures into spring. However, the pasture, sadly, becomes dormant in late spring and summer. “We found that’s where the multispecies had a fantastic impact with producing feed later in the season and the dual benefit of keeping the ground covered and protected for soil health,” Ms Killoran said. “From a production viewpoint, sowing multispecies in spring to boost late spring and summer production was where it was really successful.”
Easy to use and wonderful results
With such fantastic benefits, multispecies pastures are witnessing a huge surge in interest from farmers. Aiming to make decisions easier for farmers and make sowing prosperous, the calculator is an amazing product for multispecies crops. It has four categories; time of sowing, previous paddock preparation, previous pastures or crops within the past six months, and soil type. Farmers can score each of the categories and their total score suggests a cultivation method to increase the likelihood of success for future sowings.
“It’s an easy-to-use tool and the categories are quite broad but it helps farmers to place their paddock in a scenario and make it easier to plan whether to do light, medium or heavy cultivation,” said Ms Killoran. The trials have produced very high-quality feed since now with the mix, the animals can self-regulate their diet. Moreover, the mix even gives energy, protein and fibre at various times of the season.
HDLN landcare coordinator Geoff Rollinson said the trials had assessed the impact of different additives and cultivation methods on multispecies pastures. “Jade and Tony noticed great variation in the condition and history of paddocks to establish those trials. So they came up with a spreadsheet-based calculator looking at the variables to help farmers to decide what level of tillage is required to prepare a paddock for a crop or pasture,” Mr Rollinson said.
With the calculator, the farmers will have a guide to the best chances of success when establishing a pasture. The variability of the paddocks is hard to predict. Yet it’s so important for farmers to take it into account when building a successful multispecies pasture. They have tested this calculator against actual observations and it has, wonderfully, stood up to those assessments.
What’s even more amazing? The calculator is available for free from the HDLN website https://www.heytesburylandcare.org.au/
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