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Rural Diary
1 August 2016 Gary Bosley

Planning for a successful fodder beet crop

Fodder beet can be a complex crop to grow and feed. To get the best out of it, make sure you start with a good plan.

Planning for a fodder beet crop could be up to two years before the intended drilling date. Forward planning helps alleviate issues such as chemical residues from previous crop herbicide applications, and allows the correction of soil nutrition.

The first part of the plan is paddock selection. Much of the cost of growing fodder beet is in the fertiliser requirement. The crop has a moderate requirement for phosphate (P) and nitrogen (N) but a relatively high requirement of potash (K) and boron (B) and prefers a pH greater than six. Choosing a fertile paddock with good soil levels of these elements will minimise your fertiliser costs.

Fodder beet also likes fertile, deep and free draining soils. Beet can grow a tap root over a meter long if unrestricted, allowing a high drought tolerance. If the rooting is impeded by shallow soils or compaction then this benefit can be lost. Because of the machinery used for cultivations and drilling, paddocks should also be relatively flat. This is essential if you plan to use a mechanical harvester.

The next part of the plan is seed selection. Think about how you are going to use the crop and with which livestock class. Options include sheep, goats, deer, R1 or R2 cattle and beef or dairy cows. Will you be grazing in-situ or lifting? What disease tolerance/resistance do you require in your region? By answering these questions, you can choose the most suitable variety. Most importantly, choose a seed that has been prill coated for reliable precision drilling and ideally with a fungicide and insecticide seed coating to maximise establishment percentage.

The last part of the plan is to make sure you have the correct machinery to grow what is essentially a vegetable crop. Much of this machinery is specialised and you will need a good reliable contractor for a successful crop. Timings of cultivations, spraying and fertiliser applications are critical. Spraying accuracy is also important, particularly for agri-chemicals. Use a good quality sprayer that has been serviced and calibrated.

Gary Bosley

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