Chicory is more sensitive than ryegrass to sowing depth and soil temperature. It establishes best when sown into warm soils (12˚C +) at 10 mm in depth, where there are low amounts of competition from other plants in the first three months. Spring sowing is highly preferred, with late autumn planting to be avoided.
Weeds should be thoroughly eliminated before sowing as post establishment herbicides for chicory are limited. Many weeds can be controlled in the early stages of establishment with flumetsulam-based herbicides at recommended rates. The addition of grass herbicides is also recommended in many instances, products like Clethodim (Sequence) can be used for grass specific control. It is vital that weed control is well timed and applied at good water rates exceeding 150 L/ha of water. Weeds should be sprayed when they are approximately the size of a $2 coin.
Understanding your fertility status early on is critical. Learn more about soil structure and fertility here.
In grass mixes where it is expected that pastures will require a hormone spray after establishment, chicory should be left out of the initial mix with chicory (at least 3 kg/ha) and clover seed spread or direct drilled just before grazing in spring.
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. Take a soil test in the autumn before spring planting chicory as this allows time for lime to be applied and become effective. Nitrogen fertiliser improves establishment of chicory, especially when temperatures allow for active growth.
If weeds, especially Californian thistle, are an issue, spray-drill annual ryegrass during autumn into paddocks that will be planted in chicory the following spring. This allows chemical control of weeds over the autumn (more effective time to target thistles). Using an Italian ryegrass like Asset from an autumn establishment for 18 months prior to spring sowing chicory helps the total feed supply (2 winters) and provides more time to target thistle control.
Chicory can be successfully established by cultivation or direct drilling (spray-drilling). Direct drilling may be more suitable on some soil types.
In all cases careful review of all herbicide residuals for previous crop history should be noted as chicory is a susceptible species to a number of commonly used cropping herbicides.