With less than six months before pastoral farmers must comply with strict limits on nitrogen use, plantain is back in the spotlight for autumn sowing this year.
One plantain in particular is providing great cool season growth.
That means it mops up more soil nitrogen at the riskiest time of the year for leaching, plus it provides extra feed when it is most needed on farm.
Captain CSP (cool season plantain) has been specifically bred to keep growing during the cooler months of the year.
This is very important for reducing soil nitrogen (N) losses, particularly in the current regulatory environment.
Many farmers are looking for ways to mitigate the risk of soil N loss from their systems while maintaining sustainable levels of production.
Industry research has shown plantain has real potential here, to the point where it is now included in OVERSEER.
But Captain’s value to both red meat and dairy producers extends beyond a strong environmental profile.
Captain also grows strongly in other seasons and performs particularly well in the summer despite being bred for cool season performance.
In terms of stock performance, it’s palatable, easily digested and rich in essential minerals and trace elements. So there are distinct animal nutrition benefits, on top of its use as an N-mitigation tool.
Grazing utilisation is good, because Captain remains obviously upright in the pasture year-round.
Captain has shown good persistence in mixed-sward trials. Well-managed, it will thrive for up to three years.
A key benefit is the ability to use the new plantain in different ways, depending on farmers’ individual priorities.
In red meat systems, for example, mixed with red and white clovers, Captain offers a high liveweight gain finishing crop. Alternatively it can be part of a perennial pasture mix.
Dairy farmers can sow it as a specialist three to four year pasture, mixed with hybrid ryegrass and white clover; or include it with new autumn-sown perennial ryegrass pastures.
It’s also well-suited to over-sowing into thin pastures in spring.
Barenbrug is working to develop new plantain cultivars, with both environmental and animal nutrition benefits in mind.
We have two goals with our plantain research, both revolving around N mitigation.
The first is breeding improved plantains, with even more cool season growth to utilise more N in winter.
The second is to increase the levels of the secondary metabolites that help reduce N leaching.