Planting multispecies swards was one of the actions outlined in the plan to make Tullamore Farm more sustainable.
Multispecies swards with high clover content require significantly less nitrogen than perennial ryegrass or grass and clover swards.
They also bring diversity to the soil, encouraging different microorganisms and providing different rooting depths and root types, helping to improve soil health and structure.
This can help swards to become more resilient in dry conditions.
Animal health benefits can also be seen, but in a scenario where these swards are part of a grass or grass and clover rotation, it will be hard to pinpoint these benefits.
However, it is not just as simple as deciding to plant a multispecies sward - planning is needed.
The first thing to note is that if you find it difficult to manage clover in grass swards, you will most likely find it more difficult to manage multispecies swards.
So it might be better to master clover management first.
It is now getting late to plant these swards and any that are being planted would need to be in by the middle of August.
Clover is key in these swards and might be easier to establish as soil is warming up rather than cooling down.
Weeds may also get more of a chance to develop in the autumn and winter. It might be worth waiting until spring time to establish; a good start is crucial.
Which field to target
If you want the sward to be successful, like any crop it needs a good seedbed, so ensure phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and soil pH are in good order. Target fields at index 3 for P and K and 6.3 to 6.5 for soil pH.
It also important to target drier fields. Do not put these species into the wet corners of the farm.
Target fields with low weed populations. If there is a weed problem, ploughing may be needed, but discing is another option where weed populations are low.
Once planted into a favourable site, weed populations can remain relatively low. Research has shown that weed populations in multispecies can stay stable at 4% where they may increase over time in perennial ryegrass swards.
When will a multispecies sward be planted on Tullamore Farm?
Given all the information above, the target will be to establish the multispecies sward on Tullamore Farm in April or May of next year.
The wait will be worth it if it means getting a better establishment rate by giving clover every chance to get off to a good start.
Careful planning will go into deciding on a suitable site, taking into consideration soil fertility and drainage.