Sow a Maris Kestrel kale crop for high-yielding forage

Monday 17.06.2024 , News

Offering high digestibility and a long utilisation period, Maris Kestrel kale is a valuable forage crop. The entire plant can be utilised and serves as an ideal late autumn or early winter feed for beef cattle or sheep. When sown in June, a Maris Kestrel Kale crop can also help you overcome late-season grazing deficits, explains grassland expert David Little.

Although feed prices have settled in recent months, there is no guarantee this will continue through winter. Therefore, it makes sense to spread the risk and start growing forage now, so you can outwinter stock and save on bought-in feed.

Utilised through autumn and winter, Maris Kestrel can produce a kale crop that is extremely high in dry matter and metabolisable energy.

Maris Kestrel kale benefits

  • Yield: 10-12t DM/ha
  • High leaf-to-stem ratio
  • High digestibility drives intakes
  • Vigorous early growth
  • Lodging resistance
  • Winter hardy
  • Long utilisation (October to February)

Growing a kale crop vs other fodder crops

As you can see, growing a kale crop of Maris Kestrel makes sense if you are aiming for high-yielding forage with good levels of metabolisable energy.

Crop & varietySowing timeSeeding rate (per acre)Time of utilisationEstimated DM yield (t DM/ha)DM%CP%

Metabolisable

Energy (MJ/kg DM)

Kale: Maris Kestrel

May-

June

2.50-3.00 kg*

October-

February

10-1214-1616-1812.5-13.5
Hybrid brassica: Redstart

May-

August

3.50-4.00 kg

June-

February

6-812-1418-2010-11
Forage rape: Stego

July-

August

3.50-4.00 kg

October-

February

4-612-1418-2010-11
Swede: Triumph

May-

June

3.50-4.00 kg

November-

February

10-1210-1210-1212.5-13.5
Leafy turnip: Appin

April-

September

2.00-3.00 kg

June-

February

3-58-1018-2010-11

Source: Germinal Horizon

*3.50-4.00kg if broadcasting

When to sow forage kale

Maris Kestrel can be sown in May or June, ready for grazing in outwintering systems from October.

Site selection and preparation

Ground used for any brassicas should not be too steep, and must be free-draining and fertile. The field should not be a threat to watercourses, and have trees or hedges available to shelter livestock. To avoid the risk of clubroot, land should not have been sown with brassicas for at least five years.

Aim to soil test land at least eight weeks before planting. Optimum pH levels for good growth are 6.3-6.5, with P and K indices of 3.

Maris Kestrel kale crop on a slope

Kale crop establishment

Before sowing, spray off the old sward with glyphosate at the correct rate and water volume for a good kill. Apply lime to reduce acidity from the trash die-off and achieve the correct pH level. Three bags of 10-10-20 per acre should be applied at sowing.

Fertiliser applied at the time of sowing helps with establishment. It is also fine to use farm manure, but this takes a while to release and become available, particularly if manure is ploughed down into the ground.

Good seed-to-soil contact is essential for successful germination, so ploughing or disc and one-pass followed by rolling to create a firm, clean seedbed, is used most often. But Maris Kestrel kale seed can also be direct drilled or broadcast.

Sow the seed at a depth of 5-10mm, whichever method is chosen. The aim is to produce an even, dense crop of leafy forage kale, so seeding rates must be maintained at 2.50-3.00kg/acre, if drilled, or 3.50-4.00kg/acre, when broadcast.

Maris Kestrel kale crop on a slope

Early management

The first six weeks after planting a Maris Kestrel Kale crop are the most critical. After sowing, put bales out to ensure livestock graze at least 30% fibre in their diet. This also prevents them from driving through the established kale crop and causing damage.

You also need to monitor the crop closely for weed ingress, disease and pest damage. Brassicas are particularly prone to sulphur deficiency, indicated by yellowing leaves.

As outlined above, the bulk of fertiliser for winter brassicas goes into the seedbed, but nitrogen (N) application rates depend on the sowing date.

Kale is more responsive to N inputs once leaves are growing, so you can use a little less this time. For top dressing, apply one bag of CAN four to six weeks after sowing.

Ask the forage experts

Contact a Germinal expert below to discuss Maris Kestrel kale.

David Little, Agricultural Product Manager, Northern Ireland
T: 07718 658716
E: [email protected]

Diarmuid Murphy, Area Sales Manager, Southeast/Midlands/West
T: 085 747 3865
E: [email protected]

Claire Bailey Archibald, Area Sales Manager, Northeast
T: 087 470 6908
E: [email protected]

Pat Delaney, Area Sales Manager, South/Southwest
T: 085 841 6477
E: [email protected]