Take home messages
- Vetch produced average hay yields of 2.2t/ha and grain yields of 1t/ha.
- Timok and Morava produced the highest hay yield.
- With fodder and grain in short supply, the yields of both grain and hay would be very valuable over summer in 2018/19.
Vetch brings many benefits to the cropping and mixed-farming rotation including its ability to fix nitrogen and provides a disease and weed break, mitigating or prolonging the onset of herbicide resistance.
Vetch is versatile and is grown for grazing, forage, green or brown manure, grain for livestock and for seed, hence the emphasis of its fit in the cropping rotation.
The National Vetch Breeding program trials advanced lines from the breeding program in specific environments to identify candidate lines for future release, which are suited to targeted areas.
This trial was undertaken by BCG in the southern Mallee region of Victoria for the past five years. This trial work has influenced the release of previous vetch varieties, particularly those varieties targeting the Victorian and South Australian Mallee environment.
To investigate advanced vetch breeding lines performance against existing varieties in the
|Crop year rainfall (Nov-Oct):||200mm (Decile 1)|
|GSR (Apr-Oct):||138mm (Decile 2)|
|Paddock history:||Fallow 2017|
|Crop type:||Timok, Morava, Volga, Studenica and Languedoc vetch|
|Target plant density:||60 plants/m²|
|Seeding equipment:||Knife points, press wheels, 30cm row spacing|
|Sowing date:||7 May 2018|
|Harvest date:||17 November 2014|
|Trial average yield:||Grain: 1t/ha, hay/dry matter: 2.2t/ha|
|Fertiliser:||Granulock® Z @ 60kg/ha + flutriafol @ 200mL/100kg, applied at sowing|
|Seed treatment:||P-pickle T® @ 200mL/100kg|
|Pests, weeds and disease managed according to best practice.|
This trial was sown in a randomised complete block design with four replicates. Assessments included emergence scores, disease assessment, flowering date, biomass cuts at flowering and grain yield at maturity with a plot harvester.
Results and interpretation
Given the growing season rainfall for Narraport in 2018 was low (Decile 2), the yields achieved are a good reflection of how vetch can perform in the harder/low rainfall years, as well as the benefits vetch can offer as a break crop.
The longer season varieties yielded best in both grain and hay, reflecting their ability to continue growing with late moisture, where the early lines had already started to senesce when the later rains came (Table 1). This was a reflection of the season rather than an ongoing trend in the Mallee, where early maturing varieties generally out yield the late varieties.
Table 1. Mean hay yield (t/ha) and grain yield (t/ha).
With the quality of vetch hay (on average 21% crude protein, 10.2MJ/kg of Metabolisable Energy (ME) and 84% dry matter digestibility) these yields would provide excellent stock feed over summer or a valuable income stream in a dry year. The grain yields also offer the opportunity for a good grain ration, mixed with other grains and hay, for ruminants during summer, with crude protein levels of 29%, and 12.8MJ/kg ME on average, combined with good palatability for all ruminants.
The results will be fully analysed and compared against all other vetch breeding trials from 2018. Full results, including discussion of lines with potential as new varieties and how they performed in specific environments, against existing varieties will be reported at a later date.
With the increasing importance of break crops in a profitable and sustainable cropping rotation, and for a variety of strategic agronomic reasons such as targeting resistant grass weeds or soil borne diseases and increasing soil nitrogen and organic matter for the benefit of subsequent crops, vetch should be considered as a valuable break crop in the system. The yields achieved by the vetch varieties in such a poor season offer a reasonable return in this season as well as the opportunity to achieve the benefits for following cereal and oilseed crops, even in the harsher seasons.
The versatility vetch offers in-season, to be cut for hay, harvested for grain, used for grazing or sprayed out as a green/brown manure crop, means it is an important break crop option in the Mallee. All these end-uses may be used to strategically target specific agronomic goals in a paddock and still allow the possibility of a commercial return from the season, offering increased profitability across multiple seasons.
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