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New Nutrient Management Tool for Reducing Nitrogen Leaching



Nutrient losses to waterways can occur from rainwater either moving organic matter, sediment and nutrients from land surfaces into surface waters, or leaching of nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and sulphur, through soil into groundwater. Losses due to leaching are often greatest when soils are wet, namely during winter and often after summer crops, such as maize, brassica or fodder beet are harvested or grazed in autumn and early winter. Cover crops such as oats have been used as a management option to reduce nitrogen leaching, but the degree of benefit is largely dependent on the management for achieving high crop yields. This will include sowing date and establishment method, with an early sowing date being most beneficial. The challenge is to use a crop which can establish and grow during the wetter and the colder winter months.

Triticale due largely to its ryecorn parentage has a deep root system resulting in an excellent nutrient scavenging ability. Triticale destined for use as a winter forage supplement is typically sown in March through to early May. The breeding of a new and unique triticale cultivar with excellent winter activity and early establishment vigour provides an improved option for nutrient management compared with existing winter cover crops.

Field trials at a number of sites and over years, have shown that this winter active triticale can remove 19%, 21%, 28%, 35% and 45% more nitrogen from wet soils than another triticale, oats, ryecorn, wheat and annual ryegrass, respectively, and as such provides another mitigation option for managing nitrogen movement and losses. The key to this ability is in the varieties ability to actively grow in a New Zealand winter.

Trial commercial crops conducted by the Seed Licencee Cates Grain & Seed Ltd based in Ashburton have demonstrated the plants ability to grow quickly in the winter months and accumulate valuable dry matter that not only absorbs nutrients, but can also be used as a high quality feed source during and coming out of the winter months.

Cover crops can be used to reduce nitrogen losses during winter. The development of a winter active triticale has provided farmers with an improved option. On cultivatable soils it can be sown early (May) or later (July) into colder soils and in both cases captures more nitrogen than other commonly used cropping options or fallow ground.

Winter active triticale offers farmers a practical and improved option for reducing nitrogen losses from cold wet soils after removal of summer/autumn crops and at the same time providing a valuable, fast growing high quality feed option for early spring.

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