Lee recently had a chat with Karyn Cassar of Benmar Farm, an organic dairy at Hannam Vale on the NSW mid north coast, about how their inoculated seed for pasture is going. The results are very promising!

Karyn and Carissa inoculated their rye grass seed for seeding into standing kikuyu pasture with a view to growing winter forage. What they found is:
– They are able to graze inoculated seed paddocks 1-2 weeks earlier than uninoculated paddocks, because the seedlings have strong root systems that the cows can’t pull out.
– The earlier graze produces earlier tillering (production of side shoots), which leads to greater above ground biomass and an earlier second graze. In short, lots more feed.
– Less seed is needed for the planting, as roughly 25% of uninoculated plants were lost on the first graze.

Karyn has been kind enough to share more information for anyone else thinking of inoculating seed:

“My name is Karyn Cassar and I operate Benmar Farm at Hannam Vale. I first heard about inoculating seed with worm juice from Lee Fieldhouse at Island Biologicals. We plant winter pastures each year to feed our dairy cows, and thought we’d give it a try to see if it was worth the extra time and effort (which is always in short supply at planting time!). We first applied the liquid to the seed with a backpack sprayer, one that had not been used for chemicals, putting one bag in the seeder, spraying it on as it was getting poured in then hand mixing it up. A 2 person job, very time consuming. I went ahead and invested in a 12v pump, about 7L per minute, you can buy from Ebay that comes as a car wash kit with hose and spray nozzles. I replaced the nozzle with one from Bunnings that does a flat type of spray for better control of the liquid. It is now a 1 person job as the 12v pump delivers enough volume of liquid to moisten the seed then hand mix. I have found that mixing the seed up and letting it dry out for a few hours or overnight helps keep the seed calibration the same, as when it is moist, it will flow slower, but it does not clog the machine. I budget 1L of liquid per 25kg bag of seed.

“From my observations in the first week, I didn’t notice the seedlings growing quicker or being any different to the non-inoculated seed, but I did find the inoculated seed was sending out extra roots. That made me think that if the seedling had more roots, then it makes sense that it can uptake more nutrients therefore growing better. Another benefit of the extra roots was that we do the first grazing according to the pull test – emulating the way a cow grasps the grass with her tongue and pulls up – and if we can grab a handful of grass with little to no roots pulled out, then we can graze it. I found that the grass was passing the first pull test 1-2 weeks earlier than we had achieved in prior years. By grazing earlier, it meant the plants tiller sooner, resulting in more feed grown. By using the correct grazing management and fertility programs, this results in more tonnes of dry matter harvested, which equates to more dollars – more milk, less bought in feed, etc.

“After using the worm juice, I would not plant without it. The extra time and effort are worthwhile for the result, particularly in these wet years when it is difficult to get seeds established and not pulled out. I recommend to anyone that will listen that it’s worth it and buying that little 12v sprayer makes it so much easier. We have changed our seeding routine to suit, mixing seed up the night before so it’s ready to go the next day, or before lunch break, allowing the seed to absorb the liquid and keep the seeding calibrations consistent, whether through a broadcast spreader or a direct drill seeder. Happy planting!”

Thanks for sharing, Karyn! You can find out more about Benmar Farm at benmarfarm.com.au.

For the full run down on using Biocast for seed inoculation see Biological seed inoculation with Biocast