What You Will Learn...
Fast Track Your Farming Series
The Problem: Concerns about declining profitability, poor soil structure, dry land salinity, soil acidification and increasing numbers of herbicide resistance weeds prompted Colin Seis to look at changing his farming practices.
What Did Colin Do?: Colin developed a system which is now called Pasture cropping. With his friend Daryl Cluff, they initiated over 15 years ago a technique of sewing crops into living perennial pastures and having these crops grow symbiotically with existing pastures.
The Results: By maintaining year round ground cover. Colin has reduced wind and water erosion, improved soil structure. reduced weed numbers, increased nutrient availability and increased levels of soil organic carbon.
As you watch and listen to this video many benefits will become apparent as Colin shares how he has been perfecting his technique over the years. From a farm economic point of view the potential for good profit is excellent because the costs of growing crops in this manner are a fraction of conventional cropping.
We’d like to thank Colin Seis for his generosity in sharing his valuable experiences about pasture cropping and no-kill cropping. A special thanks also to Dr. Maarten Stapper for sharing his insights, knowledge and time.
What Is Pasture Cropping?
Pasture cropping is a technique of sowing crops into living perennial (usually native) pastures and having these crops grow symbiotically with the existing pastures.
Colin Seis and Daryl Cluff initiated this idea about 15 years ago and since that time, on his property “Winona”, Colin Seis has spent much of his time perfecting this technique and due to this it is now possible to grow many different types of winter and summer growing crops, without destroying the perennial pasture base.
It may appear that pasture cropping is simply a cropping technique. It is much more than that. Pasture cropping is the combining of cropping and grazing into one land management method where each one benefits the other. The potential for profit and environmental health including building soil carbon in being able to do this are enormous and a lot of landholders in many regions of Australia are showing this to be the case. There are now over 1500 farmers pasture cropping cereal crops into summer (C4) and winter (C3) perennial native grass in NSW, South Australia, Victoria Queensland and West Australia as well as the USA and Scandinavia with good results.
Benefits Of Pasture Cropping
The original concept in 1993, of sowing crops into a dormant stand of summer growing (C4) native grass, like red grass (bothriochloa macra) was thought to be a very inexpensive method of sowing oats for stock feed. This certainly turned out to be true, but it was quickly learnt that there were many side benefits and that it was only touching the surface of a land management technique that is proving to be revolutionary. The grazing crops performed so well that it was obvious that good grain yields could be achieved as well.
It was also learnt that sowing a crop in this manner stimulates perennial grass seedlings to grow in numbers and diversity. This produces more stock feed after the crop is harvested and totally eliminates the need to re-sow pastures. Conventional cropping methods require that all vegetation is killed prior to sowing the crop and while the crop is growing.
From a farm economic point of view the potential for good profit is excellent because the cost of growing crops in this manner is a fraction of conventional cropping methods. The added benefit in a mixed farm
situation is that up to six months extra grazing is achieved with Pasture Cropping compared with the loss of grazing due to ground preparation and weed control required in traditional cropping methods.
Other benefits are more difficult to quantify.
These include the vast improvement in perennial plant numbers and diversity of the pasture following the crop. This means that there is no need to re-sow pastures, which saves from $100 to $150 per hectare.
The technique is also being used to restore native grasslands over much of Australia.
There is growing evidence, anecdotal and scientific, to support that it improves soil health, improves water use efficiency and general improves ecosystem function.
By retaining perennial native grass in grazing and cropping systems and having 100% ground cover 100% of the time, large increase in plant biomass can be achieved when compared to conventional methods. This biomass dramatically increases soil carbon levels and improves the soil food web.
On “Winona” organic soil carbon levels have risen from 2% to 4% over a 10 – year period. Independent studies at “Winona” have found that Pasture Cropping is 20% more profitable than conventional agriculture this is coupled with great environment benefits that will improve the soil and regenerate our landscapes.
The benefits of pasture cropping are enormous, way beyond the short-term crop yields. They contribute to the development of vitally needed topsoil, water management, stabilising the many forms of soil erosion, controlling weeds as well as great potential for increasing soil carbon levels and improving soil health. It gives farmers and graziers a tool to effectively manage their properties whilst individually contributing to a healthier environment.
Once complete ground cover is achieved, the Pasture Cropping technique can be used to grow organic crops. This can be done without using a plough or herbicide to destroy the existing pasture.
Who is this for?
For all farmers who are in declining profitability, poor soil structure, dryland salinity, soil acidification and increasing chemical inputs and know that there is abetter way.
Colin Seis and his son Nicholas own and run the 2000-acre property “Winona” which is situated North of Gulgong on the central slopes of NSW. The Seis family was one of the early pioneering families in the Gulgong district and has been farming and grazing there since the 1860s. Winona runs around four thousand, 18.5 – micron merino sheep, which includes a 58 year old Merino Stud and “Pasture crops” around 500 acres annually to oats, wheat and cereal rye.