Top tips for bumper chicory crops

There’s an old saying that it costs as much to grow a high yielding crop as it does to grow one that yields poorly.


The key difference of course is that the high yielding crop provides much cheaper – and more profitable - feed than the low yielding one.


So if you want to get the very best out of your 501 Chicory this summer, an experienced agronomist has a handy check list that will help.


Blair Cotching, who heads the pasture systems team at Barenbrug, says the first step is to sow early, as soon as soil temperatures are 12⁰C and rising.


“Aim for a fine, weed-free seed bed, and remember that chicory seed needs to be sown shallow, never deeper than 1 cm. If you’re direct drilling, pay close attention to depth control.”


For a straight crop of 501 Chicory, Blair says the best sowing rate is 10 kg/ha, using AGRICOTE-treated seed.


Good seedbed preparation, and rolling the seed before and after sowing, helps encourage uniform germination, not only of the crop itself but also any weeds which might still be in the soil.


This makes it easier to pick the right time for post-emergence weed control, if required. Seek specialist advice before applying any crop protection to ensure you are targeting the right species.


Blair says while chicory usually germinates quickly, young plants then seem to sit and look like they’re not doing much for about four weeks.


“Don’t worry about this. They are putting energy into the development of their deep tap root, which helps them tolerate dry spells over summer better than ryegrass.”


501 Chicory crops should be ready to graze when the plants have seven or eight leaves, Blair says.  


Cows should go onto the crop when it’s 30 cm high, and be taken off when they have grazed it down to 3 cm. Care needs to be taken in wet conditions to avoid damaging the crown of plant.


For lambs, grazing guidelines are different.


“If you’ve sown 501 Chicory as a finishing crop, we advise break-fencing the paddock into blocks, and adjusting mob size so that you shift lambs at least every three to four days.


“As a rule of thumb, use a 20-25 day rotation between grazings, depending on growth rate.”


Finishing lambs should go onto the crop when it’s 20 cm high, and be taken off when they have grazed it down to 2 cm.


To make it easier for farmers to get their grazing management right, Barenbrug has designed a new 501 Chicory sward stick, which is available now free of charge, Blair says.


It’s marked on one side to show the actual on/off crop height for cows, and on the other, the on/off height for lambs.


Contact your local Barenbrug area manager if you would like to receive your own sward stick.