Dr Lucy Watt1, Dr Lindsay Bell1
1CSIRO, Agriculture and Food, Toowoomba, Australia
Forage brassicas are widely used higher rainfall livestock systems, but a recent multi-environment study has identified several forage brassica genotypes with high potential for use in Australia’s mixed farming zone. Forage rapes and raphanobrassica (kale x radish) cv. Pallaton were identified as high performing genotypes in low production environments capable of producing higher yields of metabolisable energy and crude protein compared to forage cereals, particularly late in the growing season. Despite this production potential, further work is needed to demonstrate the system fit and agronomic management required for forage brassicas to be used reliably in drier environment livestock systems. Winter grown forage cereals and dual-purpose crops offer relatively short grazing windows in late autumn and early winter, while forage brassicas have an extended vegetative phase with fast grazing recovery; hence extending grazing windows and reducing gaps in seasonal feed supply. Feedback from participatory farmers in on-farm demonstrations has identified several niches where forage brassicas could provide benefits including as an autumn-sown option to fill feed gaps from winter to early summer, or as a spring-sown option to provide higher quality summer and early autumn feed. Our data has mainly focussed on the autumn-sown option where farmers have achieved 12-14 months of grazing on raphanobrassica crops with fat lambs which has produced returns of up to $2670/ha gross profit. Although promising, we are further exploring the value of forage brassicas on a whole-farm feedbase level across a broader range of environments, livestock systems and sowing times to target other grazing windows.
Lucy is a mixed crop-livestock systems scientist based at CSIRO in Toowoomba Qld. She commenced with CSIRO as a Postdoctoral fellow in 2018 working in forage brassica and dual-purpose crop research. She enjoys engaging and collaborating with industry to enhance her research impact.