Struther's June Field Day

Struther's June Field Day

Farming your way out of Chilean Needle Grass

There were 45 farmers, contractors and vineyards operators at the field day on Tim Struthers property in Blind River on 12 June. There was clearly interest in working out how to farm your way out of Chilean Needle grass from both sheep and beef farmers and vineyard operators who have graze stock in the vineyards and on surrounding hills.

Tim described through many photographs and data how he has implemented a double cropping system involving rape and barley to convert a solid Chilean needle grass paddock into a productive pasture this spring containing Lucerne, plantain, clovers, cocksfoot and broome.

Struther's June Field Day

During the cropping phase the paddock has generated returns that are sufficient to cover the costs of the development including fencing while still having a similar profit to the original CNG paddock. It is expected that the improved paddocks will be substantially more profitable than the CNG paddock and have much lower CNG plant numbers. The trial will compare CNG plant numbers from the double cropped paddocks half of half of which have sprayed with Taskforce and Roundup that has residual activity against both CNG, nassella and other low quality grass species and the other with just Roundup. So far there has been no negative effect of Taskforce on the forage barley germination and production. Tim stressed the importance of following up any blanket use of Taskforce with the sowing of Taskforce resilient forages to ensure the paddock doesn’t remain bare. Tim stated “It is very important to develop a dense competitive sward to keep the CNG at bay. CNG doesn’t like competition.”

To enhance the competition Tim has put in dams in the gullies, subdivided the paddocks using old vineyard posts into 5-6ha paddocks and applied capital fertiliser.

The current and subsequent performance of these trial paddocks paddock will be monitored for another year as part of the Earthquake Biosecurity project which is managed by NZ Landcare Trust. Annette Litherland from NZ Landcare Trust gave an overview of trials underway looking at over-sowing high quality forages such as plantain, chicory, clovers and Lucerne in combination with the use of Taskforce.

Tim has developed a policy to control CNG in the vineyard by spraying every second row, every second year with Roundup, deep ripping to remove compaction and sowing Nui ryegrass. This keeps the CNG plants in the vineyard to very low levels reducing the risk of spread from stock and machinery.

Seona Casonato from Landcare Research provided an overview of the biocontrol programmes for CNG and nassella tussock programmes. She is fronting a new sustainable farming fund project supported by a group of Marlborough farmers which is going to run in Marlborough, Canterbury and overseas starting next month. She is looking for New Zealand and overseas biocontrol agents for nassella tussock. She has found one promising one in Australia. She asked farmers to contact her if they see any unusual deaths of nassella tussock plants on their property.

Mark Neil from Ospri talked about the NAIT system and answered farmers’ issues relating to the NAIT system. Warrick Lissaman from the farmer led Chilean Needle Grass Action group quizzed Mark on the possibility that the NAIT system recording additional biosecurity information like the presence of pest weeds on the farm. Three local contractors also shared their experiences gained from controlling CNG throughout Marlborough.

Rob Simons, from Marlborough District Council, told farmers under the new pest management plan farmers on fringe and core CNG properties will, in the near future, be required to have an CNG management plan with the council. This will include aspects of CNG biosecurity and management.

NZ Landcare Trust leading the EQ Biosecurity project, and Beef + Lamb NZ will be hosting two workshops where farmers can develop their own biosecurity plans. One on July 9 in Waiau which is focusing on biosecurity plans and one on July 10 in Blenheim, where farmers will complete both and Land and Environment plan and a biosecurity plan (See Beef + Lamb NZ events to book).

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