23 June 1995

More grass potential in west of Scotland – SAC

WEST of Scotland farmers could be getting more from their grass, according to Charlie Mackie, head of agronomy at the Scottish Agricultural College.

Speaking at the Scotgrass demonstration at Armadale, West Lothian, last week, Mr Mackie said a third of grass seed sold in the UK each year was in Scotland but 75% of that was in the east, where it was treated as a rotation crop.

"In the west, the main dairying area, most grass is still permanent pasture and farmers should look carefully at production from fields that are more than five years old," said Mr Mackie.

"There is no doubt that newer varieties would lift grazing or silage yields or, if no extra production was needed, existing output could be achieved from less fertiliser," he said.

"Farmers should be aware of what is in their pastures because many will have reverted to low production, native species."

Rely on supplier

He agreed that most farmers took little interest in grassland seed mixtures, relying instead on their supplier.

"We have recognised this for a long time and that is why we work so closely with the trade. We were doing that even before the voluntary levy of 2.2p/kg of seed sold was introduced five years ago," said Mr Mackie.

"This raises £55,000 a year in Scotland for the variety trial work in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Ayr that goes into our grass and clover recommended list."

A new list will be issued at the end of this month but will be restricted to the 95% of seed merchants who pay the voluntary levy and SAC advisers.

Mr Mackie said that seed was in short supply and had increased in price. But he advised farmers to go for the best for their particular conditions, saying that the yield difference between the best and worst grass varieties could be more than 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) of silage. &#42