Dual purpose crops boast double meaning

Dual purpose crops boast double meaning

Sheep
Feed and food: Nick Kershaw in his dual purpose canola crop near Greenethorpe, NSW.

Feed and food: Nick Kershaw in his dual purpose canola crop near Greenethorpe, NSW.

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Exploring the double benefit of dual purpose crops.

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The Kershaw family first sowed dual purpose winter crops on their farm in 2013, working with CSIRO to investigate grazing management of wheat and canola varieties in GRDC-funded research.

Nick Kershaw and his father, Rod, now sow Kittyhawk, a dual purpose wheat, and dual purpose Hyola 970 winter canola on their 1800 hectare property near Greenethorpe in New South Wales.

They haven't sown a large area with dual purpose varieties at this point, but Nick said the output was impressive.

"The Hyola 970 in particular produces a huge amount of biomass," he said.

"It's unbelievable. We normally run about nine DSE per hectare (dry sheep equivalents) on pasture in the area, but we've got 25 on the canola at the moment and 15 on the wheat.

"We'll get to graze sheep for probably six weeks on the Kittyhawk and certainly this year two months on the Hyola 970 before pulling the stock off by mid-July to let the crop recover."

Last year the dual purpose crops were harvested about three weeks earlier than the regular varieties and the grazed paddocks didn't suffer a yield penalty.

Early rain and early sowing in March compared to May for their regular varieties, has given this year's dual purposes crops time to get roots down before being grazed, which are important factors for success in dual purpose cropping, according to Nick.

CSIRO agronomist Dr John Kirkegaard trialled the Hyola 970 on the Kershaw's farm to determine how heavily it could be grazed, when to take stock off and other factors.

The Kershaws are now working with CSIRO on how best to sequence dual purpose crops over five years.

The roots of dual purpose crops can grow as deep as four metres, leaving soils dry and low in nitrogen.

Rotating with shallow-rooted legumes like chick peas or lentils, whose roots may only go down to one metre, may help ensure stored soil water and nitrogen are available in alternate years.

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