Upper North Farming Systems have recently sown a new trial crop site near Caltowie to test viable feed base options for farmers in the region

CROP TRIAL: Ruth Somerville, the executive officer and project manager for Upper North Farming Systems at the crop trial.
CROP TRIAL: Ruth Somerville, the executive officer and project manager for Upper North Farming Systems at the crop trial.

Upper North Farming Systems have recently sown a new trial crop site featuring 15 different plots and varieties to test viable feed base options for farmers in the region.

On land owned by Andrew Kitto between Caltowie and Laura, the group sowed the various crop types almost three weeks ago and so far, have seen some positive results, which as Ruth Somerville, the executive officer and project manager for the group explains, could be integral for the region's future.

"Part of what we are doing here is trying to show people there are options to improving their feed base. Improving pastures, not relying on a barley grass, rye grass that are self sow pastures and improving the opportunities for feed production in the region," she explained.

"This particular project is looking at meeting some of those early feed gaps coming out of summer, there are a lot of people lambing so there is a big feed need at this time of the year. We are also looking at options for later in the season and maintaining that soil cover over the summer so that we are protecting our soils."

This trial site is not the first for the farming group, for the past three years they have been conducting similar trials in Booleroo Centre but factors such as climate and location can be incredibly varying, hence the set up of a new trial.

For the 15 varieties that have been sown which includes Bouncer Brassica, Cobra Balansa Clover, Studenica Vetch and Lynx Medic, the group will be analysing what does and does not grow well. Ruth explains that a failed plot is not necessarily a failure, but more so demonstrates what does work well in the region.

"Moisture availability is always a challenge in the Upper North. Less so in the regions around Melrose and Jamestown, but for majority of the region, moisture availability is an issue and meeting a feed need is number one priority for farmer.

"If we can show them what does and doesn't grow in the region, a failed plot is not necessarily a failure, it is showing that it is not an option for this region," Ruth said.

As the crops have been in the ground for almost three weeks, there are already some positively visible results including the germination of the seeds but Ruth says that rain is now vital.

"We have one or two that are looking a bit sluggish but it was sown into a dry seed bed and we have had reasonable rainfall on it since.

"It will be looking for a drink, there is no sub-soil moisture across the whole district. Rainfall is going to be key to how our crops and pastures go coming into winter."

The self-funded trials are all to improve the profitability and sustainability of farmers in the Upper North.