Record days for seeds of change

TASMANIA’s seed industry has been a quiet achiever but over time the state has earned a reputation for being one of the world’s most reliable production areas.

For many Tasmanian farmers, pasture seed production is now a crucial part of their business.

As expertise has improved, so have crop yields.

Robbie Tole, who farms on Greenvale near Cressy, sees grass seed as an import part of his annual cropping rotation.

He said timing and attention to detail are crucial to get the best performance out of pasture seed crops.

Last year that strategy paid off when he produced what is thought to be a potential world record crop of Ascend annual ryegrass.

The crop yielded 4.72 tonnes of cleaned seed a hectare.

Mr Tole has been growing Ascend for four years and said while crop management was important, there was also a degree of luck involved with getting a yield at that level.

“I think we’ve probably grown equivalent crops before, but there’s always been something that just hasn’t quite worked out when we came to harvest it,” he said.

“Last year everything just fell into place and that made a big difference.”

Seed crops at Greenvale are planted in about February and used to finish lambs until June.

The crop is then grazed down hard before being locked up for seed production in late October. Mr Tole said he had found getting the grass as short and even as possible prior to lock up is crucial.

An investment in on farm storage and drying facilities was also paying off.

Mr Tole said as the scale of their seed operation increased, being able to dry and store seed on farm has become more important as a risk management tool.

He said the drying shed in particular allowed them to start harvesting earlier in the day and finish later without worrying about excess moisture in the seed.

The Tasmanian Seed Industry Group representing pasture and vegetable seed producers is headed up by chairman Rob Dent and treasurer Bramwell Heazlewood.

Mr Dent said Tasmania’s climate and access to reliable water meant it had become a favoured area for grass and clover seed production by a number of major companies.

“Things are sort of changing and Tassie is taking over as one of the major production areas for temperate varieties,” he said.

Mr Heazlewood said a major increase in production had been the key to the industry’s growth.

“We’ve got more professional growers and that’s been driven by the strength of the livestock industry because it works in well with livestock,” he said.

“I think the demise of the poppy industry has probably played a role as well.” Mr Bramwell said:

“I think what we’ve done is actually doubled production but not area in the last 10 years,” he said.

“It’s a great crop for growers and it’s good that companies can come here and get what they want.”