Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Refining fodderbeet in Southland

Southland Deer Industry New Zealand Focus Farmer David Nind has had a “Yes-No” relationship with fodderbeet over the four years he has grown it. It went in to supplement winter grazed dairy cows and weaner deer on the family’s Five Rivers sheep, deer and beef breeding and finishing properties near Lumsden.

First grown in 2010, the 10ha crop yielded 17 tonnes drymatter a hectare – above expectations – and the 6ha 2011 crop a pleasing 25t/DM/ha. The 2012 crop was “average”, producing 20 tonnes, and this year’s 10ha crop is looking “fair-ish”, David says. Despite the variation in yields and the expense of spraying, he’s sticking with it.

“I know it’s expensive but I don’t think we have any other options (for a second rotation crop) at this stage and I’d like to refine the growing of it … I like to think I’m predicting it better.”

From experience he knows the earlier the crop is in the ground the better it does, and a good shower of rain a few days after spraying also helps.

Tips for success


  • Select free-draining soil
  • Grow in first year of rotation
  • A soil pH of 6.2 is ideal; if below 6 apply lime in the year prior to sowing.
  • Sow late October/early November
  • Sowing rate: 80,000-90,000 seeds/ha
  • Early season weed control and monitoring is essential
  • A pre-emergence and early post-emergence spray is necessary and possibly a third and fourth spray
  • Average Southland yield: 22-26 t/ha.

Growing costs of this year’s crop worked out at $2511.30/ha, compared with $773/ha for direct-drilled swedes and $903.30/ha for ridged swedes.

Facilitator Alastair Gibson suggested that David needed to be growing a 25t crop if he was budgeting on feed cost of 10c/kg/DM.

Advance Agriculture managing director Howard Clarke says Southland-grown fodderbeet crops typically average around 22-26t/DM/ha, with the best ones around 30 tonnes.

The cost of growing fodderbeet is about double that of swedes but for the same level of management expertise fodderbeet can yield double the drymatter of a swede crop.

“Although this year will be an exception, fodderbeet will do a lot better in the dry conditions. Aphids are attacking brassicas but it doesn’t seem to be a problem with the beets.”

Unlocking the potential of fodderbeet requires careful paddock selection and management during early crop establishment.

“I’d say grow it first (in a rotation) and follow on with a brassica the next year,” Clarke says.

Free-draining soils are essential as is a pH in the 6 to 6.2 range.

“If it’s not you need to take corrective action the year before sowing.”

Thought also has to be given to chemical residue from any previous crop grown in the paddock. Fodderbeet is out of the question if Glean or T-MAX has been used or HT brassicas grown.

Early season weed and insect control is essential and expensive. A pre-emergence and early post-emergence spray programme is needed and sometimes a third and fourth required depending on the weeds present.

“The key is to get them early and then monitor,” Clarke says.

The earlier the crop is sown generally, the better the results; in Southland the ideal time is the end of October through early November.

Clarke recommends a sowing rate of 80,000 seeds/ha but has noted improved results when the rate is increased to 90,000.

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