Wednesday, 6 March 2013

SMARTGRASS - Earlier first cut silage and quicker livestock turnout

Livestock farmers can enhance the growth rate of their grass, leading to earlier first cut silage, earlier turn out and higher productivity, through the use of a newly registered novel plant growth enhancer SmartGrass.

Dr David Stormonth of Interfarm explains that SmartGrass, which contains a patented formulation of gibberellic acid, has been proven to enhance the growth rate of grass in the early spring, enabling earlier use for either grazing or silage by the farmer.  “Applied as a conventional spray to grass at the start of spring growth, SmartGrass will enhance or accelerate the growth rate of established rotational and permanent agricultural grassland for about 6 weeks. It will increase the growth rate of grass, enabling the earlier use of grassland for grazing or for cutting for hay or silage production. Its use results in visibly taller grass and increased dry matter/hectare when cut. By the simple act of advancing the timing of the 1st cut, this brings the whole growth season forward, allowing earlier grazing or advancing the timing of the subsequent cuts. It will also help with planning feedstuffs at turnout and reducing the need for supplementary feed.”

David explains that SmartGrass works by supplementing natural growth promoting plant hormones. It stimulates plant cell expansion and increases cell number, resulting in rapid foliar growth.  “Normally the spray window is around the end of March to mid April but this year it may be a bit earlier. SmartGrass increases the dry matter productivity of the pasture or sward, whilst maintaining quality of feed. In trials at SAC in Scotland, SmartGrass increased dry matter yield by 810 kg/dry matter/hectare and resulted in an extra 4 t/ha fresh weight after 6 weeks.”

Optimum results are likely when SmartGrass is applied at or just before the period of rapid spring growth of grass has started. This is when day length and temperatures are increasing, thereby creating conditions suitable to encourage early season growth. The sward should be of good quality, good fertility and should have adequate moisture. Air temperature should be warming and likely to remain so for 7 days.

The better the sward, the better the Smartgrass response, says Dr Stormonth.  “So don’t use SmartGrass if crops are suffering drought, pest or disease, low fertility or other stress factors that may reduce potential growth. Swards should have adequate nutrient supply and moisture to support the extra growth from SmartGrass. It is advisable to keep livestock out of treated areas for at least 2 weeks to allow the grass to respond to treatment. SmartGrass is applied through conventional spray application.”

Dr. Stormonth reports that SmartGrass is a product that has been developed by Valent BioSciences Corporation, which is also part of Sumitomo Chemical Company. “It has already been used successfully in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Chile. Approval for its UK registration with CRD follows three years development work across UK and relevant European countries. We have some amazing reports of its performance in Australia and New Zealand in particular.”

Australian dairy farmer Evan Bourchier has been using it for over 6 years on his farm north of Melbourne.  He estimates a 35-40% increase in his feed growth during the winter. He confirms that it is easy to apply and results are seen within 7 to 10 days, with extra growth continuing for three to four weeks.  “By using it, we can make sure the cows get proper pasture feeding. It turned out that we got enough extra pasture grass left over to cut a bit of hay and silage. That provides some extra bulk when needed. And it saves us bringing in hay – which can cost a lot,” says Evan Bourchier.

SmartGrass contains 400g/kg gibberellic acid (GA3) formulated as a water soluble granule and packed in a 20g sachet. It is a systemic natural plant growth regulator for use in fertile grassland used for grazing, hay or silage. It is applied at a dose rate of 20 g/ha in 200-400 litres of water and at a medium spray quality in the early spring at the start of growth, during a warm period with temperatures greater than 5ยบ C before the end of April. It can be applied with an adjuvant. One application can be applied per crop and the latest time of application is the 1st May. SmartGrass has no LERAP, but care is needed to avoid drift onto adjacent crops. It is rainfast within 2 hours.