Farmer Focus : Bill Davey 19/11/04

RENOWNED FOR its natural beauty, New Zealand boasts some of the most attractive scenery in the world, of that there can be no doubt.

It has snow-capped mountains, rivers, forests and lakes, along with acres of lush green pasture. First impressions suggest an abundance of rainfall, but here on the east coast of South Island that is not quite the case.

Average annual rainfall is 734mm (29in), but summer transpiration, from mid-November to the end of February, can be so high that finishing any crop successfully needs the insurance of irrigation.

We started irrigating on Nov 3, only three days later than last year, and quite remarkably have encountered no problems to date.

Vining peas and Japanese radish are the first crops to receive 25mm (1in) of water. At that application rate we can cover 20ha (59 acres) in 24 hours with a return time to the same crop eight days later.

Contractors were busy last week making silage from surplus short rotation ryegrass. We sprayed the 60ha (148 acres) with Roundup Renew Extra (glyphosate) at 2.25litres/ha three days before cutting.

This not only increases the plants’ sugar content, it allows us to cultivate as soon as the silage is removed.

Good quality grass silage with an average dry matter of 45% is highly sought after, and we have grossed £334/ha (135/acre).

Incidentally, the dairy farm taking it milks 2300 cows.

The grass had already grazed our store lambs throughout the winter, so the silage proved a most attractive catch crop.

We are now busy cultivating the same land for late sown vining peas – Dorango for Heinz Watties, to be drilled on Nov 13 at 230kg/ha (1.8cwt/acre).

Rain is forecast for the three-day Christchurch Agricultural Show. I suppose you can’t have everything.