Regal Kale is a high yielding & high quality kale which is grown throughout New Zealand in a range of different conditions. In this article we will delve into how Megan & Doug have achieved such a great crop in a dryland environment with the help of their Farmlands Technical Field Officer Aaron Watson.
Doug and Megan along with their three children, Robbie, Jose & Lucy, farm Whiskey Creek in Ettrick, Central Otago. Their farm is a dryland sheep and beef property with a mix of flat, rolling & steep areas. In the past they have had mixed results with their winter crop due to a range of factors. This season Doug and Megan are very pleased with how well their kale crops have done. "I am happy with Regal, we won't go away from it now as it has set the benchmark," says Doug.
When establishing crops in dry land environments, careful planning is required to maximise yield. Doug says "timing was everything with this crop and the metservice rain radar was our best tool, we got rain the day after sowing and then another few rains in January which meant we had just enough rain at the right times". "Although we cannot control the rain, there are a number of ways we can conserve moisture prior to planting to help with establishment. Where possible, it is also key to make the most of any moisture you do receive by applying some strategic fertiliser shortly before a rainfall event to really boost crop yield."
Aaron has weighed the crop and it looks to be sitting around 16.6 tonnes of dry matter per hectare (tDM/ha). This is a fantastic yield for a dryland kale crop in Central Otago and Aaron has been noted how soft the stems were when weighing the crop.
Regal Kale crop programme
The crop was grown under a 'double spray direct drill' system. The first spray was done in spring, with the second spray closer to drilling, this meant they could tidy up a lot of weeds early and also conserve some spring moisture to carry through into November. The crop was direct drilled on the 22nd November with 150kg/ha of DAP down the spout. The paddock was previously soil tested to give them to opportunity to correct deficiencies early. Aaron monitored the crop throughout establishment and noticed some small populations of nysius and springtails, but he also found plenty of ladybirds which were keeping the pest levels down. They decided to closely monitor and hold off on any post emergent use of insecticide. They then gave the crop a side dressing of Sustain at 100kg/ha six weeks after planting and then again four weeks later. They decided to apply their fertiliser with a bulky and risk a small amount of crop damage in pursuit of getting the fertiliser on as soon as they saw rain in the forecast. Doug says "We find the bulky more available (than a plane or helicopter) at that time of year, and timing is key for us".
Doug and Megan have multiple Regal kale crops on their farm which have all done well. They key to their success is doing the basics well, having a robust plan, thorough crop motoring and getting the timing right. They will be feeding this crop to their ewes, and although this is a tall crop, Doug says "the stems are still relatively soft even in the heavier crops".
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