The key to the successful establishment and management of fodder beet is ensuring that no short-cuts are taken. Consideration to paddock and seed selection, soil preparation and seed sowing are key to ensure this high value, high yielding crop reaches it’s full potential.
Determine a clear plan for your cropping and grazing programme and be sure to discuss your requirements with your contractor to ensure paddock operations are carried out and crop supplies are available in time.
Talk to your local Technical Field Representative for assistance around planning and preparation.
It is important that the paddock has a pH above 6. A soil test should be carried out one year prior to planting so any issues can be addressed over time. Avoid paddocks that have issues around soil quality and avoid paddocks that have been pugged or have a pan that will restrict root growth.
Water ponding in a paddock is often a sign that a paddock is not suitable. When choosing a paddock, think about feeding out, ensuring good access and feeding off a long face. Feeding off a long face face has advantages for transition so bear this in mind where possible.
Planting a true genetic mono germ fodder beet variety is very important. Newer seed lines maintained by plant breeders each year provide more consistent seed quality and purity Avoid lines that are prone to bolting. Bolting and subsequent seeding present a threat to the future use of the crop with plants creating a seed bank that could last many years; leading to a similar problem as per wild turnip in brassica. To minimise the risk of bolting, always aim to sow this season’s seed.
A soil test should be taken at least six months before planned drilling as the ideal soil pH for fodder beet is pH 6.0 or above. Fodder beet yields are also sensitive to potassium, sodium, chloride and to a lesser extent, phosphate and nitrogen. Most of the fertiliser should be applied at the time of sowing, with some further side-dressing required prior to canopy closure.
A precision drill is a must for planting fodder beet. The drill must be able to control seeding depth and accurate spacing within the row. Accurate planting will aid weed control and help with feed allocation over winter. Fodder beet will require weekly, not fortnightly, crop walking for the first 4 - 6 weeks from drilling to ensure good weed control to maximise yields, so plan for this period.
Fodder Beet is an exciting new crop option available to New Zealand farmers. As a high yielding, energy rich crop it needs the right levels of the right soil nutrients to perform. In particular it is essential to ensure the pH of the paddock is at least 6.0 so be sure to soil test early and apply lime well before the crop goes in the ground.