Agriculture, based on chemical inputs of fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides is promoted as ‘best practice agriculture’ in many countries around the world. Not only is ‘best practice agriculture’, responsible for many of the problems in human, animal and soil health. There may be other ways that we can feed the growing human population without destroying our farms and the planet
– Colin Seis
What is Pasture Cropping
Pasture cropping is an innovative land management techniques that enables annual crops to be grown opportunistically into a dormant perennial pastures, or pastures whose competitive capacity have temporarily been suppressed by grazing, and or selective herbicides to enable the successful growth of annual crops.
In contrast to conventional cropping that is sown into bare soil or stubble, Pasture Cropping creates and exploits temporary competitive niches in the root ecology of the perennial pastures to enable the optimal growth of
the short term annual grain crop. Pasture Cropping avoids the need to kill the competitive pasture prior to sowing the crop thereby maintaining living plant cover of the soil so as to enhance its biological health, water retention and their protection from wind and water erosion relative to conventional crop practices.
Colin Seis has seen the need for ‘fast tracking’ improvement of degraded soil and grasslands as well as producing crops for human consumption and/ or stock feed. Since 2010 he has developing ‘multi-species’ pasture cropping’ with the aim of producing better quality forage and improving soil health even more that single species pasture cropping does.
Multi-species pasture cropping uses all the methods used in ‘pasture cropping/ but with the addition of 10 or more compatible annual plants that are sown at the same time. The mix of species improves soil microbial health, soil structure, nutrient cycling, as well as produces excellent stock feed. It has the added advantages of being able to harvest a grazing crop after the multi species crop is removed via grazing.
The rationale behind pasture cropping
Farmers for centuries have either grown and grazed pasture or grown crops on bare soils or tilled seedbeds. To try to get the best of both, many farming systems have also integrated alternate cropping and lay regenerative pastures stages in their farm management plans. However this has required the periodic killing of the pasture by cultivation or bio-cides to allow crops to grow. Few have been able to integrate both in one perennial ecology and farming system.
This is because perennial pasture and crop systems operate via different ecological and competitive processes that are assumed to be incompatible with each other. Whereas perennial grasses compete through maximising their root soil interfaces to survive periods of stress, annual crop plants compete as pioneers, rapidly and opportunistically exploiting suitable soil niches to produce adequate seed for survival when stresses return. While both strategies can be highly effective may be difficult for one plant to compete though both.
These distinct competitive strategies may enable farming systems to be designed where the two types of plants can co-exisy synergistically in time and space to benefit soil health and plant production.
For the past 20 years Colin Seis from, Winona, Gulgong, NSW, Australia has been at the forefront of refining and evaluating such ‘Pasture Cropping’ strategies. Outstanding results and benefits have been confirmed in Colin’s trails, including: