That’s the message from the DairyNZ Pasture Improvement Leadership Group (PILG).
Ensuring farmers get certified, treated seed appropriate for their farm and the right endophyte is paramount, according to AgResearch science impact leader and PILG member, Dr Warren King.
It is a critical time of year for farmers to choose their new pasture cultivars and Warren says it’s too easy to get the formula wrong.
He says there is conflicting information in the marketplace and urges farmers to look for good evidence-based information before making a decision.
“Beware of farmer testimonials, there’s quite a lot of it around at the moment and it will only get you so far,” says Warren.
“What farmers need to be asking is ‘show me the money, show me the data. Where is the evidence that shows me that your cultivar is going to perform on my farm?’
“The Forage Value Index (FVI) through DairyNZ is an excellent place to get that information. It is based on decades of seed company data, independently analysed. It is consistent, it’s well measured and it’s the very best source of information.”
He says most reputable seed companies give great information in regard to choosing endophytes but because a few companies don’t, there is danger of mixed messages.
“In the upper North Island you have to have appropriate endophytes to protect against black beetle, Argentine stem weevil and the root aphid.
“Anywhere above Taupo, it has to be AR37 or NEA2. Anything else and you are just taking a massive risk,” says Warren.
In 2000, perennial ryegrass with the endophyte AR1 was commercially released to New Zealand farmers. It provides only limited protection against black beetle and is no longer recommended in the upper North Island.
Warren says using no endophyte is extremely risky.
Similarly, he urges farmers investing in pasture seed to recognise that it is a perishable product. It’s vital to know that it’s been kept in a cool store and transported appropriately, and hasn’t been sitting in a hot warehouse or outside.
“If you are going to pay the premium for grass seed with the best endophyte, protect that investment by getting it from a reputable source. In addition, seed treatment is strongly recommended to protect your pastures from insect attack during early establishment.
“Everyone recognises that pasture renewal involves some risk so it’s a case of minimising that and maximising the return on your investment,” says Warren.
“It’s a big decision and it’s important to get it right, so make sure you use the very best information available.”
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