High-yield crop establishes faster and can be grazed sooner.
Picking the right chicory for summer crop can mean as much as $325/ha worth of extra milk for dairy farmers this season.
It's all to do with a fast start in spring, and high crop yield over summer.
"Not all chicory cultivars are equal," explains Blair Cotching, pasture systems manager for Barenbrug Agriseeds.
"Some are perennial, but 501 Chicory is more of an annual type, and that has some really important benefits that ultimately mean more milk in the vat, or more liveweight gain for finishing stock."
Because 501 Chicory is an annual, it establishes faster and can be grazed sooner than slower-starting perennial types.
In some cases that early advantage adds up to one full grazing more than other chicory cultivars over summer and autumn.
"We've measured this dry matter yield difference in trials, and it's significant," Cotching says. "For example, 501 Chicory grew 550kg DM/ha more than Choice. Imagine what you could do with that amount of feed over 10-15ha of chicory.
"At a milk price of $6.50/kg MS, this extra DM equates to increased milk production worth $325/ha."
Establishment costs are virtually the same no matter which cultivar is planted. But as these figures show, simply changing from one to another can add hundreds to the profit margin. That's on top of the crop's nutritional, management and environmental benefits, Cotching says.
Few other home-grown or imported feeds can match it for summer quality; animals love eating it; it doesn't need insecticide sprays and because it is tap-rooted, it is more resilient and water efficient than ryegrass in summer droughts.
"That means green, leafy, multi-graze feed when other paddocks are brown and dry, and less damage to existing pastures from over-grazing."
501 Chicory's deep roots also improve soil structure, mine deep soil nitrogen (N) and pull up other minerals from the soil profile.
It is ideally suited to planting on effluent blocks, because it soaks up both excess N and potassium (K), which are then redistributed more evenly around the farm via the cows.
N-leaching research has shown heifers grazing chicory urinated more often without increasing urinary output or urinary N, potentially reducing N loading and subsequent nitrate leaching from the soil.
"Farmers in sensitive catchments like it because it establishes well via direct drill or minimum till, and can be renewed into grass in autumn the same way. So they're not getting the same soil N losses as they would with full cultivation." That's better for fragile soils, too, he says.
For best results, 501 Chicory should be sown early, while moisture is available for good germination (as soon as soil temps are 12C and rising), using treated seed at 10kg/ha, and no deeper than 1cm.