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Getting the better of El Nino before it gets dry

Getting the better of El Nino before it gets dry

Hawkes Bay 15 September: Tap rooted, reliable and highly productive, one forage herb species could make all the difference to farmers’ summer feed supply as El Nino looms large this season.

Summer crops are being sown early before soils dry out and chicory is already proving to be a popular drought-proofing choice, according to local pasture specialist Paul Sharp.

“With the long range forecast the way it is, 501 Chicory makes a lot of sense. In a dry year, it’s more reliable than leafy turnips and it also has several other advantages.”

Current soil moisture levels are significantly below average in Hawke’s Bay and Sharp, who works for Agriseeds, says many farmers are being very proactive about setting their feed supply up for the months ahead.

With a long tap root, 501 Chicory can reach moisture deeper in the soil profile than leafy turnips, and can source important trace elements in the process.

“The crop is highly palatable with high digestibility, and will provide multiple grazings throughout the summer,” he adds. “It’s also productive and nutritious – on average it will grow 10 t DM/ha of high quality feed at an ME level of 12.”

Animals transition faster onto chicory crops than brassica crops and will not experience a check in their growth when first introduced to the crop.

501 Chicory establishes quickly, and its upright growth habit makes it easier to graze, allowing higher feed utilisation - up to 90% compared with most brassicas which are typically around 80%.

“Last but not least, it is less susceptible than leafy turnips to white butterfly and diamond back moth caterpillars and it does not host pasture pests such as black beetle and Argentine stem weevil,” Sharp says.

He recommends sowing 501 Chicory into a fine, firm, weed free seed bed as soon as soil temperatures reach 12 deg C and climbing. Soil fertility is important and rolling the paddock before and after sowing will help the crop germinate evenly. The crop should not be grazed before it has seven leaves, which is usually around eight weeks after sowing.

“By this stage the plants have well developed taproots which will support growth and survival through summer and autumn.”

For more useful information, download the new free guide to summer cropping from


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