If the level of interest among farmers who attended the Tullamore Farm open day is anything to go by, there is huge interest in multispecies swards and red clover among Irish farmers.
What may have been considered a bit of a fad a year or two ago has well and truly come into the mainstream, with farmers open to all options as a way to reduce reliance on chemical nitrogen and improve sustainability.
Many farmers are put off multispecies because of the threat of weeds and poor persistency. While weeds are a risk that can’t really be mitigated against other than making sure the new multispecies has the best possible start, persistency is less of a concern.
So what if some of the multispecies don’t survive past two or three seasons? They will have residual benefits in terms of improving drainage, reducing compaction and improving overall soil health.
The fact that they don’t last is OK once the clover and grass varieties survive. This means that by year four or five there may not be much else other than perennial ryegrass and white clover in these swards, but that’s not a bad outcome.
What we need to avoid is the need to reseed these crops every couple of years.
By that reckoning, for a farmer consistently reseeding 10% of their farm to multispecies annually, 25% to 40% of the farm will probably be in multispecies at any one time.
Speaking to those in the seed trade, it appears that seed sales will be back significantly in 2022 compared to the last two years.
There are a few reasons for this, including a big spike in reseeding during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 but also an unwillingness for farmers to spend in 2022 due to high costs and pressures on feed stocks.
As we head into the autumn, there is still a window of opportunity to get some reseeding done, but it’s late to be sowing multispecies or clover at this stage.