Farmers aren’t the only ones getting seed drills ready this autumn. New Barenbrug pasture trials are being sown throughout the upper North Island as part of the company’s long running regional R&D programme.
A centre for the work is the company’s 10ha Kaipaki research farm, the only pasture and forage R&D facility of its type north of Taupo, and an invaluable proving ground for new cultivars.
“This is where we sort the men from the boys,” says upper North Island agronomist Jen Corkran. “It’s tough going up here for ryegrass. We have peat and ash soils, every insect under the sun and for at least six weeks every summer, sub-tropical conditions which take ryegrass right out of its comfort zone.”
Jen and agronomy technician Kent Browning have something else at Kaipaki that sets it apart – livestock, with 45 beef heifers rotationally grazed on the farm to test ryegrass yield and persistence under real life conditions.
Trials sown this autumn will include annual, Italian, hybrid and perennial ryegrass, and red and white clover. Some are first-stage breeding trials, testing the newest crosses from Barenbrug’ plant breeding team in Canterbury; others are advanced breeders’ and pasture management trials.
Given the success of Shogun, there’s a lot of interest in the latest hybrid ryegrass breeding lines from the main research farm in Canterbury. Created from crossing Italian with perennial ryegrasses, hybrids can take on a range of perenniality and offer a great fit in many parts of NZ to get the best range of seasonal growth, Jen says.
Endophyte research, critical for persistence in upper North Island pastures, takes place both on farm and in the glasshouse. On-going pot tests for black beetle, for example, are currently being carried out by an entomologist based in the Bay of Plenty. Results of this work will identify which endophyte and cultivar combinations advance to field testing on farms with known black beetle pressure.
Visitors are welcome at Kaipaki. Contact Jen Corkran (021 308 167).