A paddock survey of on-farm plantain use
The use of narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata) in pasture sowing mixtures has recently increased following research demonstrating the value of the ‘Tonic’ cultivar in reducing cattle urinary N concentration, with likely benefits for reducing N leaching from pasture systems. The purpose of this study was to document the ways in which farmers are using plantain, investigate the factors that enhance successful establishment and persistence, and to test a method of visual estimation of plantain content in paddocks. This information will support verification of animal intake, given that there is evidence that a critical level of plantain is required in the diet to achieve significant effects on N cycling. In grass-based pastures, plantain content declined with age since sowing and few paddocks had more than 20% of their available dry matter as plantain after three years. A systematic visual assessment of plantain cover correlated well with a formal visual dry matter assessment and could be used to establish when plantain content at a paddock scale is >20–30%. Plantain content tended to be highest when sown without grass, when established by direct drilling and on clay soils, but optimal sowing rates have yet to be determined.
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