In the Southern Region we have a lot of soils which are highly alkaline and prone to waterlogging through winter months. One of the biggest frustrations amongst livestock producers with these soils is choosing a suitable long term perennial grass. Ryegrass, phalaris, cocksfoot and fescue have previously being used, but each one of these varieties comes with its own problems. Due to the fact our regions rainfall is generally only 20-28 inches perennial ryegrass will not reliably persist. Phalaris is arguably the king of perennial grass however on highly alkaline country it has to be carefully managed due to the high risk of staggers to both cattle and sheep. Cocksfoot is a very persistent option, but doesn’t handle waterlogging. Fescue came along and looked like it might be the answer as it does not have any animal health risks; however we have since found that a strict grazing management has to be put in place otherwise if the fescue gets away it can become unpalatable and will often need to be slashed. Is there an answer?

Chicory has been around for quite a few years now and is thought to have medicinal purposes and has been very good for livestock. This appears to be the case as chicory doesn’t cause problems like bloat, however we have seen far greater benefi ts as it is highly palatable and digestible, shows excellent growth rates in livestock and can persist long term if allowed to re-seed. 5 Years ago we were adding chicory into a mix at 0.5-1kg/ha. We have since found that it has struggled to persist as chicory is very palatable and is often preferentially grazed by stock. Through working closely with producers and trial information from our research farm we have found chicory needs to be sown at a heavier rate of 2-5kg/ha in order to maximize greater persistence.

The persistence of chicory is strongly infl uenced by two main factors; grazing management and the ability to allow plants to set seed when required. Grazing management comes back to the frequency of grazing, similar to lucerne – the longer the rest period between grazing, the longer potential persistence. Allowing plants to set seed is a great way to thicken up diminishing stands. This is not required every year, but allowing chicory to set seed every 3-5 years will give you greater persistence as chicory regenerates extremely well from seed.