Pasture Cropping and Restoring The Grassland Ecosystem with Colin Seis

Pasture Cropping

Pasture Cropping Inventor Colin Seis

What is Pasture Cropping? Inventor Colin Seis shares story and techniques.

Colin Seis is an Australian farmer/rancher that invented Pasture Cropping in 1995. He shares with us some amazing information and philosophy about restoring the Grassland Ecosystem. Coil also mentions how pasture cropping is restoring perennial grasslands and increasing his profits.

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Transcription Summary

Hey, guys, Chris Stelzer from Agricultural Insights again, with another interview summary. Now, if you don’t know, I interview real farmers and ranchers, and those interviews last about 60 minutes. So I figured I would give a boiled down, condensed summary of those interviews here in video format to give you guys out there some insight into what these interviews might actually be like. And if you do enjoy the interviews, and you do want to listen to the full-length interview, you can go ahead and go over to AgriculturalInsights.com and check those out. But today I’d like to summarize the interview I did with Colin Seis from New South Wales. He’s an Australian farmer and rancher. Colin actually invented the technique called pasture cropping, or he made it very popular. There’s some debate out there as to whether he really invented it or not, but I’m going to say that he did.Basically, pasture cropping is going out and no tilling a cash crop into your pasture, like wheat. So if you have a pasture, he has his livestock go in and graze that area pretty heavily, and then in the next few days he’ll come in and follow that with planting of wheat or some other type of cash crop, maybe it’s oats or something like that. He lets those oats grow to full maturity. Maybe he even grazes those oats one or two times and then lets them get to full maturity. Then he goes ahead and harvests that cash crop and then comes back in with his livestock and grazes that same area. So basically that’s what pasture cropping is on Colin Seis’s farm, and it’s just a fantastic way for conventional farmers or ranchers to start to make that transition into a more sustainable way of doing things. So it’s really cool. Colin actually had some dramatic increases in the fertility of his farm and also the profitability, and these are studies that you guys can go look up if you’re really interested at Colin’s website. But he increased his carbon content over 200 percent in his soils, and he dramatically increased his organic matter a few percent just by using this pasture cropping.Another really fantastic, cool thing that he did was he said that once he started no tilling the wheat crop in, he said once he harvested the wheat, the roots would basically die, the plant would essentially die, and then that would turn into organic matter in the soil. He said right in these slits, which no till cropping produces, he would have perennial grasses starting to come back that no one in his area had seen for years and years and years. Basically that no till row was a perfect habitat for these perennial grassland plants to come back and start establishing themselves. So not only is he grazing livestock, not only is he getting a cash crop, but he’s restoring perennial grasslands, building organic matter, and basically just increasing the overall profitability of his farm. So that’s the Colin Seis interview in a nutshell. Again, this interview is probably about 60 minutes or longer, so if you want to check it out, head over to AgriculturalInsights.com. Thanks for watching. My name is Chris Stelzer, and come by and introduce yourself. I’d love to hear from you. All right, take care.

More info on Pasture Cropping Techniques:

Winona – Colin Seis Farm – http://www.winona.net.au

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  • Rowdy

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK I REALLY APPRECIATE THE INTERVIEWS THIS SYSTEM COULD ALLOW US TO GROW GRAIN FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION AND STILL RESPECT THE LAND

    BY THE WAY DR ELAINE ENGHAM WOULD BE A GREAT GUEST SHE IS HEAD OF RODALE ORGANIC FARM RESEARCH

    • Rowdy,

      I have tried to contact Dr. Engham, but I haven’t been able to get her on the show. Do you know her?

  • Greg Schwab

    Another tool for the tool box. Thanks Chris.

    • Thanks Greg, I think this interview could be very useful to a lot of people.

  • Rowdy

    I DONT KNOW HER BUT I THINK SHE CAN BE CONTACTED AT THE RODALE FARM WEBSITE
    I ALSO MISSPELLED HER NAME I THINK IT IS INGHAM
    YOUR DOING A GREAT JOB GETTING SOME TOP NOTCH GUESTS I FOR ONE REALLY APPRECIATE IT

  • Alec

    Great interview! I have a question. If I heard right, pasture cropping requires drilling seed into dormant pasture. Colin was putting cool season annuals (rye, oats) into warm season grasses at the beginning of their Fall weather. For someone like me with cool season perennial pasture (fescue), should I be drilling in warm season annuals (grazing corn? sorghum?) at the beginning of the summer? Would drilling cool season annuals into fescue work? Thanks Chris.

    • Alec, those are some good questions. However, I just don’t know how that would work for you. I guess you could do some experiments and see what happens. Maybe drill in some annuals a few weeks apart in the spring, summer and fall, then see what happens. Maybe listen the interview I did with Gabe Brown again, I can’t remember if he talks about this. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Rich

      I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read and about three years of experimenting with pasture cropping (and no-kill cropping) I would think that if you planted something like sorghum-sudangrass into a fescue pasture, it would shade out and kill the fescue. I think that’s almost what is suggested to rid of pasture of endophyte-infected fescue before trying to plant endophyte-free fescue.

      Pasture cropping is geared more towards establishing a native grass pasture full of big bluestem, switchgrass, little bluestem, indian grass, etc. along with a grain/forage crop from the winter annual. The native grasses are more drought resistant, have deeper root systems (which help build organic matter), and don’t require as many inputs as introduced grasses. Growing a winter annual like winter wheat builds on and takes advantage of the positives of the native warm season grasses.

      From my limited experience, you need to control the winter annual grass weeds (ryegrass, cheatgrass, brome grass) in your native grasses when you plant your crop (wheat in my case), fertility is important in the beginning, and you need to plant a little earlier in the fall.

      You won’t always get a grain crop (it depends on how fast the warm season grasses green-up, the weather, etc.), but you will usually get winter grazing, and a hay crop if you don’t harvest the grain. The cattle seem to do better on the pasture cropped area than a typical wheat pasture and wheat hay is pretty decent quality hay (the cows will eat every bit of it and the protein levels are supposed to be high).

      • Rich thanks for offering your experiences to build on Colin’s interview. I love when people give another perspective on the same topic. Are you planning on doing some pasture cropping again this year? What will you be planting?

        Chris

        • Rich

          I’ll definitely do some more pasture cropping experiments this fall, depending on how much wheat seed I have left after planting the rest of my wheat fields, I’ll probably plant between 15-25 acres.

          Part of the area I’ll be planting is mostly bermuda grass, where I’ve drilled wheat before and had mixed results with getting a grain harvest (but I’ve gotten decent results with grazing and baling hay).

          The other area is part of a pasture that has some native warm season grasses, and is also where I did a modified version of bale-grazing last winter (I fed bales about 30-40 bales per acre so that the area was evenly covered in manure and litter). That area is where I expect to get my best results this year, since the fertility is much higher and due to the native grass stand.

          What am I planting? It’s typical for dual-purpose winter wheat to be grown in OK, and I just plant a good dual-purpose wheat variety that has both a decent grain yield potential and forage production (the same variety I plant in my wheat fields).

  • Mark Kolb

    Basically, all a take on Fukuoka’s no till systems. NOT DEVELOPED “OUT OF NOWHERE”. BTW, Fukuoka was no-tiling many, many moons before this guy was even old enough to farm. Fukuoka planted rice into clover cover crops and didn’t practice field flooding as was the norm. His yields were just as good as other conventional farmers. At the end of the day, it’s all about the end goal. If you’re cropping for cattle only, you’re not going to crop such as a grain farmer. Again, really nothing new, just newly practiced.

  • Paddy Reynolds

    Great interview Chris. Have been away, so a bit behind on the podcasts. Colin has been very instrumental in helping me repair a 50 acre paddock that my predecessor cropped year after year. It is amazing how the recovery works. I am not trying to pasture crop. Rather am planting cover crops which I graze and hope to self seed a biodiverse perennial pasture. My observation is that while germination is good, growth is sluggish. However, I just persist and each year is better than the last. In 2012 I drilled a summer cocktail using fertiliser. . The spring and summer of 2012/2013 self seeded annual grasses which I grazed. Apparently that is good and part of biological succession. In the autumn this year I drilled oats, peas, white clover, arrowhead clover, leafy turnips, chicory and plantain. I have tried drilling into dormant kikuyu on 2 small paddocks ( one 5 acres the othe 10 acres) with zero germination. So, lots to learn.

    • Paddy,

      Good for you for experimenting, lots of folks are afraid of that! Thanks for coming back and listening to the podcasts, I appreciate it.