A new plant growth enhancer could help livestock farmers boost grass growth rates, leading to earlier first-cut silage, earlier turnout and higher productivity.

Trial work carried out by the SRUC, found SmartGrass application increased dry matter yield by 810kg DM/ha and resulted in an extra 4t/ha fresh weight after six weeks.

David Stormonth of Interfarm says the product contains a patented formulation of gibberellic acid, which has been proven to enhance the growth rate of grass in early spring, enabling earlier use for either grazing or silage.

“When applied as a conventional spray to grass at the start of spring growth, SmartGrass results in visibly taller grass and increased DM/ha when cut,” he explains.

“By the simple act of advancing the timing of first cut, this brings the whole growth season forward, allowing earlier grazing or advancing the timing of the subsequent cuts. It will also help with planning feedstuffs at turnout and reducing the need for supplementary feed.”

The enhancer works by supplementing natural growth-promoting plant hormones. It stimulates plant cell expansion and increases cell number, resulting in rapid foliar growth.

Optimum results are likely when SmartGrass is applied at or just before the period of rapid spring growth of grass has started.

The better the sward, the better the response, says Dr Stormonth, so he advises not use SmartGrass if crops are suffering drought, pest or disease, low fertility or other stress factors that may reduce potential growth. Swards should have adequate nutrient supply and moisture to support the extra growth.

The product has already been used in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Chile. Australian dairy farmer Evan Bourchier has been using it for more than six years on his farm north of Melbourne. He estimates a 35-40% increase in his feed growth during the winter.

He says results are seen within seven to 10 days, with extra growth continuing for three to four weeks. “By using it, we can make sure the cows get proper pasture feeding. It turned out that we had enough extra pasture grass left over to cut a bit of hay and silage. That provides some extra bulk when needed. And it saves us bringing in hay, which can cost a lot,” says Mr Bourchier.

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