Forage growth trials

What are we doing for farmers?

The purpose of this research area, led by Derrick Moot (Lincoln University), is to inform decision-making on-farm by alerting farmers to their options and the risks associated with using different pasture species. Legumes have long been recognised for their nitrogen-fixing ability, and this feature will only become more valuable in the future.

The question for farmers is, "which legume where?". This simple question has many answers because of New Zealand's diverse landscapes, climatic conditions, and farm systems. Even within a single farm, cultivatable vs non-cultivatable land, different topography and climatic variation add further layers of complexity. The development of a legume map will enable farmers to match their property’s different land management units with the appropriate legume. This work will also complement the national forage database being developed in this programme by providing legume production curves for different regions.

The 3 key achievements of this research to date are:

  1. A manuscript produced on animal production and profitability at Bog Roy Station as an example of how legumes can transform farms. The aim of this manuscript is to give farmers confidence to see that the investment in improved pastures can be translated into profit and environmental sustainability.
  2. In summer dry environments, two years of comparative data show that improved pastures have produced at least double that of the resident pastures. These data are being used in Red Meat Profit Partnership groups to discuss the impact of legume-based pasture improvements. Results from several experiments have been written up and accepted for publication at the NZGA pasture resilience conference in May 2021.
  3. Results from work on diverse pasture mixes suggest that one species from each functional group (grass/legume/herb) is the maximum required to maximise yield and quality of irrigated pastures.

Ongoing and planned research

  • Data collections will continue for one more season on the 3 intensively monitored farms and at Lincoln. Data collection has ceased at Ashley Dene, Pemberly farm, Bog Roy and Mt. Grand.
  • At least three peer-reviewed scientific papers will be submitted on results from monocultures, mixtures and nitrogen effects.
  • Response of red clover to temperature and moisture will be summarised to match with the lucerne data.