Persistence of ryegrass, tall fescue and cocksfoot following sequential annual sowings: pasture yield, composition and density in 3 establishment years under sheep grazing in Canterbury
A long-term pasture persistence trial, consisting of repeated annual sowings, commenced in Canterbury in 2015 and is planned to continue until 2024. Preliminary results of the first 3 years sowings are reported. Each annual sowing used the same randomised block design of eight perennial ryegrass cultivars, one tall fescue and one cocksfoot cultivar, replicated four times. Grasses were drilled into a cultivated seedbed in autumn, with white clover broadcast-sown, then rolled with a Cambridge roller. Except for one 3-week spell in spring and in autumn to accumulate herbage to measure DM yield, botanical composition, morphology and sward density, plots were continuously stocked with sheep to maintain a 3-8 cm sward height from late-August to late-May. Results from the first 12 months following each of the three annual sowings (2015, 2016 and 2017) indicate establishment year had a greater influence on DM yield, botanical composition, grass leaf and stem proportions, and basal cover than did grass species or cultivar. Accumulating data from successive annual sowings and continued monitoring of each will help identify the long-term effect and difference between establishment years, as well as grass persistence traits for inclusion in the Forage Value Index ranking of perennial ryegrass cultivars.
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