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Poncho case study - Mark Mulholland, Darfield

Mark Mulholland had always made a point of protecting his grain seed crops with seed treatment prior to sowing when he was arable farming, ensuring the best strike rate and survival.

Three seasons ago the family converted to dairying and a recent trial comparing the effectiveness of seed treatment has reaffirmed that added protection is invaluable when establishing pasture.

Poncho Treated

Mark took his local Farmland rep up on the opportunity to carry out a simple trial comparing the effectiveness of Poncho seed treatment against untreated seed, grown side by side and sown as a conventional ryegrass-clover mix on what was originally a single paddock.

Initially after sowing the two 6ha plots appeared relatively even.

However once the grass got to about 30mm that changed. The treated plot kept growing and we grazed it pre winter. The untreated pasture never moved beyond the 30mm and we had cut worm come in on top of that. In the end it was a bit of a disaster.

From that point he describes the two paddocks as “chalk and cheese”, with the untreated pasture never recovering, and ending up costing almost the same again to re-establish.

Mark ended up having to re-drill the untreated paddock, this time with Poncho treated seed to ensure survival.

He says the experience in purchasing and drilling additional seed, having to spray the paddock for grass grub, and the lost feed opportunity made the initial Poncho treatment cost seem “very cheap insurance.”

For $500 to treat the seed with Poncho, in a paddock that should be able to deliver a five year return, I think the cost is minimal. It certainly wouldn’t pay for more seed and re-drilling the paddock let alone pay for spraying the grass grub.

Farmlands Darfield technical rep Paul Cooper says when farm budgets are tight, it is often tempting to drop the seed treatment option when comparing it on a cost per kg of seed basis.

It is often not unless you have been hit with something like we were in this trial that you fully appreciate the value of treatment.

He urges farmers to instead compare the cost on the basis of the outcome treated grass seed pastures deliver. This is significantly greater dry matter per hectare, with more consistent growth and longer persistency than untreated grass crops.

Mark compares the value of investing in treated seed to that of purchasing quality cows.

You are expecting to get a return of several years off them. You would not go and buy cheap ones that won’t last. It is the same for the pasture you are expecting those cows to milk off.