Over the last few years forage herbs have become a major part of summer-proofing farm systems nationwide. The benefits to farms have been well researched and supported by industry groups such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Pure sward chicory, plantain or Ecotain® environmental plantain are being used by many farmers as a multi-graze crop to boost farm production and profit. The key to any farm business is understanding which of these crops best matches their animal demands.
Chicory is a perennial herb with a deep taproot, providing high quality forage and high warm-season drymatter production. Choice chicory has been thoroughly proven on farms and in research to substantially improve production both per animal and per hectare. It can be considered as a regrowth summer crop that in the right soil conditions can last 2-4 years.
Chicory is suited to many soil types, but growth and persistence is maximised on soils with high fertility that do not frequently become waterlogged (e.g. poorly developed ex-swamp land). It has been successfully used on many soil types, including heavy clay soils, with the major challenge being the prevention of pugging damage in winter and early spring where the expectation of the crop persistence is greater than 18 months. Fertile, free draining paddocks remain the best option if a 2-4 year crop is planned.
Due to its significant growth potential from a spring sowing, Choice chicory has developed into a significant player in the summer dry dairy environments. Its value as a high quality, multi-graze protein crop has led to its success as a six month crop in a pasture renovation programme.