Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sowing Compadre Zoysia Seed - Starter Fertiliser

The starter fertiliser we suggest is Nitrophoska Blue , Yara Mila [ sometimes sold as Yara Hydrocomplex] , Crop King 55 or Crop King 88.  All are okay and have slightly different NPK blends, and different retailers sell them,  so you need to see what might be around in your area through Bunnings, Elders, Landmark etc.

Companies such as Lesco and Scotts which specialise in turf products and equipment, also have small prilled, turf starter fertiliser with some slow release nitrogen.  Quite good to use but can be more expensive and may be more difficult to source.
Commonly the NPK ratios are around 20: 12: 15, often with 5-10% sulfur as well, plus trace elements, for these starter fertilisers.
There are other brands as well, but many other brands are less well known and less available for smaller users.
Use what is available and attractively priced in your region.  These products are soluble fertiliser and can be mobile ie leach, and need additional fertiliser within about 4 weeks of application.
We recommend 2kg / 100 sq m at or before sowing, another 2kg/100 sq m at about 4-6 weeks [after emergence and when small seedlings are present] and then to switch to a slow release turf product at about 8-10 weeks, and then repeat every 12 weeks after that, until cooler months [say May or June].  From the next year in September / October restart the slow release fertiliser and repeat at 12 weeks intervals.  From midway in the next year, cease fertiliser application when cooler weather starts, then recommence with a 2 or 3 times per year schedule of slow release turf fertiliser from September /October,  omitting mid-summer and mid-winter periods. [more details on product in an earlier post] 

For zoysia use half of the recommended rate on the bag, so normally use about 2kg/100 sq m [ usual recommendation is 3-5kg/100 sq m, which is based around couch - do not need as much for zoysia.]
It is very important to spread fertiliser evenly.  Use a push type spreader or a small hand applicator for smaller areas.  Lightly water into the ground after application, aiming to avoid burning the small seedlings.  In hot weather, apply fertiliser late afternoon or early evening to avoid burning plants.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Mowing Height for Compadre Zoysia?

The non answer is - "it depends"!!

A good option is to aim for around 20 -25mm cut height, a height easily achieved using a common rotary mower.

Some people have used a much higher cut height - 100mm and even up to 150mm.  Personally, I believe that is probably too high, although for less maintained larger commercial areas there can be justification for maybe more than 25mm as a cut height.  Cutting too high all the time often reduces lawn vigour, especially lateral development, so that when cut lower at a different time of the year, the appearance of the area is not good.  A good compromise is to use a cut around  35 - 50 mm, which can reduce mowing frequency even more while having a reasonable appearance.  A word of warning though - zoysia turf can get spongy if cut too high repeatably, and develop thatch, as well as often developing a bit of loss of leaf green colouring due to lower light at the grass surface.  Yes, an area can be left to grow a little, for example, if the owner is away for a period, but getting back to a lower height is desirable, and that may take two cuts to reduce lawn height from 100mm or more, back to 25mm

Compadre zoysia can also be cut much shorter which encourages better lateral development and a dense surface appearance.  To do it well, a sharp bladed cylinder mower is preferred, and a cut of 5-10mm is certainly possible, although a good flat, hollow free surface is essential to have a good final finish and avoid scalping of the surface.

The occasional cut with a rotary mower at 12-15mm is okay though as it will pick up surface debris and reduce accumulation of thatch.  All zoysia turf varieties do have more material closer to the ground and it is surprising how much additional leaf material will be cut once you start lowering the mowing height below 20mm - you can often double the amount of clippings collected.

Compadre sod production
That also raises an important issue - with zoysia turf it is important to collect the clippings and remove them after mowing.  Some types of turf can tolerate leaving the clippings on the surface eg carpet grass and Bahia grass, but it is not prudent to do so for zoysia.  It promotes thatch development, and can boost disease and related problems.  Yes - collect and remove the clippings when you mow.  The exception is when a lawn is still developing and some additional organic material may be useful. But leaving material may be unwise if there are a lot of weed seeds present on the area as can occur in new lawn development.  Use some judgment on this one!

In most warm areas, a 20 - 25mm cut of zoysia turf, and modest fertiliser and irrigation, will allow at least 2 -3 weeks between mowings in the warm season and up to 6 weeks in cooler periods of the year, while still maintaining a great appearance.  You might also get a longer period as well particularly with prudent reduced irrigation, that does not reduce aesthetic appearance.  I do!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Which Fertiliser for Compadre Zoysia?

Choice of fertiliser is always a bit of a conundrum these days with so many types and blends available.

There is some benefit in using organic fertiliser for example pelletised chicken manure , or DPM - densified poultry manure.  It adds organic matter and some nutrients but the nutrient level is relatively low, and it can be more expensive if freight costs are an issue eg in rural and remote areas.  It can be short in some nutrients as well.  It can be useful if the turf is growing on light sandy loam soil or sand.

Conventional inorganic fertiliser is modestly priced, and there are blends that mostly meet criteria for use on turf, but all have generally rapid availability of nutrients and they can often leach quickly.  Because they are mostly readily available you get rapid lawn growth = more mowing, then the nutrients disappear and you need more, maybe in 4 weeks.  And more mowing still!!  Not the best choice at all.

Slow release turf fertilisers are ideal.  They release the nutrients, especially the nitrogen, over an extended period [often 10 -16 weeks, but longer release period products are also available].  The result is less mowing, a better appearance lawn and better availability of plant nutrients.  Many are available in small bags through garden stores and chain shops - 2-4kg sizes, but for best cost effectiveness, buy a 25kg bag and store it in a sealed plastic bin, in the bag.  It will stay usable for 2-3 years at a lower cost.

Domestic Compadre zoysia turf - Darwin area, 20 weeks after sowing seed

The blend is important, and a general use product has around 15- 25% nitrogen, 1-3% phosphorus and 10 -20% potassium, plus some sulfur [ 5-10%] , trace elements if possible, and most importantly a small amount of iron - 0.5 -1.0%.  The iron boosts the lawn colour to a lovely green, without much effect on growth.

The potassium level is important, particularly in wetter and /or warmer climates.  Potassium is mobile so can leach out in wetter periods but its role is to strengthen cell walls and provide better stress resistance, hence the need for decent potassium levels in hot weather.  Modest to low phosphorus is better, assuming the soil does have a reasonable base P level.  With more P you tend to promote legume growth [ essentially a weed in turf].

For zoysia, which is not a prolific growing lawn, the iron is especially important as mowing is less frequent and that delightful green colour is impressive for many weeks, without being cut off.

The other question is always how much.  We suggest halving any recommendation on a fertiliser bag if applying to zoysia, of any type.  Many products recommend 3 - 4kg/100 sq m for slow release fertiliser for eg couch lawns.  For zoysia - 1-2 kg/100 sq m is usually enough.  The exception may be on new lawns less than 1 year old, when you are building up a store in the soil when the recommended rate may be okay in peak growth periods.

And of course in cooler months - applying fertiliser is really not needed as the lawn is not growing very much anyway.  And not too much in wet summer conditions - it means more mowing!

If one of the common types of slow release turf fertiliser is used with a nominal 12 week release period, for zoysia of any type - twice a year is okay, once established.  Nominally apply in Autumn and Spring [or late wet season and late dry season].

The fertiliser question is always tricky and individual areas may require a slightly modified approach in areas where particular nutrients are in short supply or even may be in abundance.

But the above maxims apply in many areas, and are a suitable starting point.

Enjoy your zoysia turf.....and apply a bit of TLC!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Australian Consumers Want Australian Produced Canned Fruit and Frozen Vegetables

In a stunning announcement, Woolworths has admitted that local consumers prefer /want Australian produced frozen vegetables, and that they will now source most if not all product from Australia, and not China as is the case now for many of the lower price items.

They have announced a major, near $17 million contract with Simplot, to source product from their processing plant in Tasmania, a major and possible business saving contract for the company, as well as the supplier growers, which has been discussing shutting down totally in Australia.

Media reports are focussing on the deal to grow and process in Australia, but is not the real issue that maybe, just maybe, that consumers in Australia are beginning to favour the quality, safety, health status and food biosecurity issues related to poorly supervised and often less appropriately produced product from places such as China, where there have been so many food safety alerts over food products?

And is Woolworths now tapping into that concern?  The media report from late yesterday seemed to have more focus on that aspect, yet today there is maybe a bit less emphasis on that aspect.

This is an important deal for Australian vegetable growers, and especially those in Tasmania.  And for whatever reason, Woolworths also deserve some plaudits to "use Australian".  Now lets see how it develops.

It also follows an earlier deal in which Woolworths switched to Australian canned fruit, rather than overseas product and saw a 40% sales rise in the canned fruit product.

See more here -

and here -

Monday, October 14, 2013

Freckle Freaks the Banana Industry in the NT

A fungal disease which was found in the Cavendish banana variety in August has become a catalyst to the destruction of banana trees across the Northern Territory.

A $2.8m plan to control the fungus which is known as banana freckle, will be undertaken in an effort to protect the spread of the disease to Queensland where 90 percent of the country's bananas are grown.

Australian Banana Growers Council representative, Doug Phillips said that the disease would cause significant damage to the industry.

This eradication program commenced in the NT last week, with a significant plantation near Batchelor a major loss with many more smaller and domestic crops also affected.  Others have boosted biosecurity to ensure they do not get the disease on their property. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Opium Poppy Production Coming to the NT

This past dry season the NT has had a couple of small crops of opium poppy grown.

Yes, legally.

Opium poppy production is quite a large industry in Tasmania, but therapeutic demand has outstripped production, and they are looking at geographically diverse areas to grow more.

Some companies have been investigating production in Victoria, but one of the major companies has grown trial areas in the NT.

And they have done well.  So well, that up to 500ha is planned for next year, with potential for significant area increase after that.

Yes - the NT has seen crops come and go before, often before they increase in area even to be successful.  But this has some reasonable promise.  Strong demand for an industrial, not food  product into a market that seems to continue to grow modestly.  The company wants to diversify geographically, but I am sure the NT will get the "extra" areas needed with the bulk of ptoducyon still in Tasmania.

Legal issues need to be addressed, but id does look promising.

More here - with some audio also available.

As an agronomist, it is great to see another possible crop showing local potential.  With rice and guar also being revived it seems a throw back to the 1970s, when crop production seemed to offer much potential - will we see a few other possibles again? Mung bean, more peanuts, and probably a few more.