Producers vying to win the Pasture Challenge

Producers have taken up South West NRM’s ‘Pasture Challenge’ by designing trials to overcome productivity constraints on a paddock near Busselton.

A range of soil tests were conducted at the site in late 2022, with results outlined to producers at a field day in February by local agronomist, Graham Mussell. Graham’s outline included consideration of soil compaction, root disease and nutrient status, with a demonstration of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Nutrient Calculator.

DPIRD’s Angela Stuart-Street provided an overview of the soil profile in a pit dug to one metre, while local vet, Ian Bradshaw, discussed regional micronutrient (or trace elements) levels, the importance of micronutrients to animal health and the value of tissue testing to monitor their levels.

Based on these presentations, producers voted on which constraints should be addressed to increase productivity. Four groups were formed to develop separate agronomic packages which will now form part of a trial.

The four groups and their agronomic packages are:

  • The Rippers: deep rip; reseed with ryegrass, tillage radish and two inoculated clovers; control weeds and insects; and apply macronutrients and 2.5 tonnes of lime.
  • The Plant Biology Group: reseed with a 12-species mix (peas, ryecorn, oats, two ryegrasses, two clovers, cocksfoot, chicory, plantain, radish and forage rape); control barley grass and red mite; and apply macronutrients, magnesium, manganese, boron, copper, selenium and 2-2.5 tonnes of lime.
  • The Soil pH Group: incorporate 5 tonnes of lime; reseed with a mix of oats, barley, annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrass, brassica and clover; control barley grass; and apply copper, zinc, manganese and potash.
  • The Meat and Potatoes Group: reseed with clover and two inoculated ryegrasses; control insects and weeds; and apply macronutrients and copper.

South West NRM is now inviting producers and non-producers to join one of these groups to receive SMS updates on the trial throughout the year, be invited to pasture yield cuts and be in the running to win free agronomic support and tissue test analysis. Choose your group by completing the survey at

Groups will be judged on several weighted factors including yield, cost per tonne of dry matter produced, feed quality and a range of soil health indicators, including the effect of soil biology on cotton underwear to be buried in each treatment!

The four treatments, plus a control, will be replicated in three plots. During the trial, farmers will be invited to pasture cuts to see the effect of their treatments.

To find out more about the project, click here. The Pasture Challenge is delivered by South West NRM as part of the Soil Wise project, funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants – an Australian Government initiative. It is supported by Healthy Estuaries WA – a State Government program, and Western Beef Association Inc.