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Recommendations for establishing pasture in dry land conditions

To establish a good long term permanent pasture, we recommend the area would have been through a short term crop/brassica to try to clean the seed bed. 

During this time attention to getting the right balance of base elements is essential. Aim for 6:1 ratio of Ca/Mg – calcium for nutrient cycling, flocculation and good plant cell structure and magnesium due to its role in helping to retain & hold moisture as well as being essential to photosynthising and in the production of chlorophyll. 

This is the glue in your soil without it your soil will not hold together to retain the precious moisture. Too much magnesium and or not enough calcium has the opposite effect making soils hard, tight and repell moisture making a skin on the surface which is slippery.

Good potassium levels are also essential to plant growth and clover/legume production – again not enough will give your pasture slow recovery, stunted plants and too much potassium can tie up your magnesium even when you think you have sufficient Magnesium. Sodium can be used to help the uptake of too much potassium, particularly in legumes thus resulting in bloat.

With the soils bases balanced to maintain a healthy permanent pasture Phosphorous, Boron, Copper and Zinc should also be looked at to ensure good soil biotic and well balanced stock feed. After the sward is established then a pasture herbage test should be done to ensure your plants are receiving all the nutrients. This is also a good time to test for Cobalt Molybdenum Selenium etc. which are hard to detect by soil testing.

Special attention should be given to your soil biology as pasture thrive best in a 1:1 bacteria fungi relationship, and at this you will achieve good mineralisation of your nutrients for good tolerant pastures, then the grazing management is up to you.

When direct drilling, x-drill where possible to help establish pasture plants quicker and also create less gaps for weeds to grow.

In brief – correct your major base elements and work through the trace elements as budget allows without losing sight of what you need in the future. Also consider your grazing management plans to drought proofing as best you can.

For more information do not hesitate to contact Rob Flynn at Soil Matters on 027 626 1234 or go to