Wednesday, 29 January 2014

SMARTGRASS - Ability to increase grass productivity for little extra cost

An ex-IGER grassland research scientist, now an agronomist in the South West, reports that the growth enhancer SmartGrass can increase grass productivity for very little extra cost, providing it is applied at the right time to the right sward.  “We have seen positive results on the vast majority of my farms in the last few years and the fact that farmers are coming back for more is testimony to the product’s cost-effectiveness,” says Tim Martyn, who is acting as an agent for Pearce Seeds.

Tim Martyn has worked with SmartGrass, a water soluble granule formulation of gibberellic acid, for a number of different seasons and has been investigating research work done on GA3 both in the UK and in New Zealand.  “Research indicates that GA3 will increase productive dry matter in grass by mimicking the natural growth-promoting hormone.  The work in New Zealand noticed a productive benefit when it was used in the early part of the season, with less benefit when used at the end.”

Tim remarks that many farmers are concerned about producing enough herbage for the winter and early spring grazing.  “If, for the same nitrogen input, we can increase grass growth significantly by applying SmartGrass, increased productivity can be achieved and the need to graze larger areas or to buy-in any further feed stocks is lessened - the benefits will far outweigh the little added cost.” he says.

One piece of advice from Tim is that, although the SmartGrass is excellent at producing extra, accelerated growth, it will only do so when applied at the right time, which is when spring growth has begun and it is warming up.  “Most of my farmers used contractors to apply SmartGrass and all of it was applied in good time. If employing contractors, make sure they realise that the importance of optimum timing is the same as for a fungicide or herbicide : apply too late and there will be less benefit.”

He also mentions that the best response from SmartGrass occurs when the grass plant itself is in the best of health.

Stewart Woodhead, Technical Manager of Interfarm, explains that SmartGrass is applied as a conventional spray to grass leys designed for stock grazing or silage at the start of spring growth.  “Either the farmer or contractor can do this. And I agree with Tim that it needs to be applied at the right time - at start of active spring growth when grass is between 10 and 15 cms. Air temperatures should be warming and likely to remain warm for 7 days.”

He emphasises that the sward needs to be of good quality, in good health with good soil fertility and should have adequate moisture.  “SmartGrass should not be used too late or if crops are suffering drought, pest or disease or other stress factors. It is not a miracle cure. Response from a good quality sward will always be far higher than from a poor sward. Nor is it a substitute for fertiliser – swards should have adequate nutrient supply to support the extra growth.”

Stewart explains that SmartGrass accelerates the growth rate of grassland for about a 6 week period. “Gibberellic Acid increases plant cell expansion and numbers, resulting in leaf and stem elongation. What you see is taller grass and increased dry matter per hectare, enabling earlier use of grassland for grazing or for cutting for hay or silage production.  By bringing timing of the 1st cut forward, your second cut can also be earlier, bringing the whole season forward and maximising yield and quality during the spring peak in grass growth. Make sure your contractor is ready to cut and capture the benefits.”

The use of SmartGrass will also help with planning feedstuffs at turnout. Increased pasture production reduces the need for supplementary feeding, which can be expensive, concludes Stewart. “Treated grass has the same nutritional qualities as untreated grass.”