Add value to perennial pastures with Nitrogen fixed from legumes

Legumes have always been a valuable addition to perennial pastures and considering Nitrogen prices have skyrocketed over the past 12 months, this is true now more than ever. These high Nitrogen (N) costs serve as a reminder of the importance and value proprietary legumes can contribute to an operation by fixing free slow-release nitrogen for perennial grasses.

Research has shown that for every 1000kgDM/ha above ground legume growth approximately, 20-30kg/ha of free atmospheric nitrogen can be fixed. Legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen into usable nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia and root nodules. When foliage is removed from a legume, for example grazing a white clover, this induces the root nodules to break down and release nitrogen available for plant uptake.

Quantica tall fescue with clover
Quantica tall fescue with clover

In other words, legumes can potentially reduce the synthetic N fertiliser requirements of pastures while increasing the overall quality as legumes are naturally high in crude protein (CP) and metabolisable energy (ME). 

On average a proprietary white clover within a perennial ryegrass pasture will grow around 4000kgDM/ha/year, that’s 80kg N/ha/year of free Nitrogen fixed from the atmosphere. With the current cost of Urea at around $1100/t a unit of N costing approximately $2.39/kg; 80kgN/ha fixed by a white clover is worth approximately $191/ha/year to the farmer, excluding the extra pasture growth and increased animal performance from increased pasture quality when including legumes.

To optimise performance of perennial legumes and maximise persistence within a perennial pasture sward

  • use the PGG Wrightson Seeds Programmed Approach® to pasture renewal for an easy to follow, 10 step process on pasture renewal and maximising the persistence of a perennial pasture with legumes (Step 8 and 9 of the Programmed Approach™).
  • use high sowing rates at establishment (4 – 6kg/ha white clover) or 20% of the pasture mix.
  • use legume friendly herbicides during establishment.
  • maintain high soil fertility especially Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulphur and Molybdenumand be mindful of soil pH.
  • use proven proprietary clovers bred within a pasture sward.
  • use the appropriate legume species for rainfall and soil type.

So, who needs free Nitrogen?

Pair high performing perennial ryegrass varieties such as Base AR37, Reward Endo5, Platform AR37/AR1 or summer active tall fescues such as Quantum II MaxP® or the new Quantica MaxP with proprietary white and red clovers and maximise pasture mixes fixing up to 80kgN/ha/year plus. Proprietary clovers such as Legacy large leaf white clover, Quartz medium leaf white clover, Hilltop small-medium leaf white clover and the new generation red clover, Amigain, have been bred in a pasture sward offering the following benefits and more. 

And let's not forget lucerne!

Lucerne is a Nitrogen fixing legume that provides premium quality hay and grazing. Discover the Stamina® range of TRUE grazing tolerant lucerne for Nitrogen fixation and a high return on investment in comparison to older cultivars such as Aurora (especially after 3 years).

 

Amigain red clover
Amigain red clover

NEW Amigain red cloverAs the latest generation red clover bred for increased persistence and growth in permanent or short term, high performance pastures, Amigain is bred to persist/perform in both pasture mixes and pure swards. As a specialist multi-year crop, Amigain provides high quality feed and produces lower formononetin (oestrogen) levels compared to older varieties.

Quartz medium leaf white clover: A high yielding, persistent medium leaf white clover with high stolon density and broad adaptability across various environments and farm systems. 

Hilltop small-medium leaf white clover: Bred to cope with more challenging environments from variable soil fertility to variable moisture availability, Hilltop is a very robust and persistent small-medium leaf white clover.

Legacy large leaf white clover: A high performing large leaf clover offering greater persistence, high yields and improved year-round production, resulting in more Nitrogen being generated to drive pasture performance.

Red and white clovers available from DLF Seeds are bred and selected from within a high performing perennial ryegrass sward whereas, traditional clover selection was completed under cut and carry trials for two years. Amigain, Legacy, Quatrz and Hilltop clovers were evaluated for growth and persistence under cattle grazing over multiple years. Through these trials it was evident that the increased stolon density fibrous root systems and their ability to compete and persist in the modern pasture sward make them the ideal companion to a perennial pasture.

Ultimately, if established and managed well, sowing legumes as part of a pasture mix may increase the overall pasture quality, reduce fertiliser requirements, improve stock performance and provide a higher return on investment.

Get in touch

For more information on high performing perennial pastures and nitrogen fixation, contact us on 1800 619 910 or get in touch with your local Sales Agronomist.

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