The Winton A&P Association research farm has just finished setting up the first stage of a new pasture systems research site for farmers and industry advisers in Southland and South Otago in a partnership with seed company Barenbrug Agriseeds.

Given to the Winton A&P more than 100 years ago, the 65ha farm also provides an introduction to agriculture courses for YMCA students in Southland.

Manager Kane Gillan said the new research site would allow farmers to have a first-hand look at different pastures.

''We've had a number of trial sites across the farm and this new one expands what we are able to show farmers,'' he said.

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Blair Cotching, Barenbrug Agriseeds pasture systems manager, said the Winton farm was an ideal place to test innovative pasture mixes, as well as new cultivars, under grazing, in local conditions.

Mixes of ryegrass, plantain and red, white and annual clovers were among the latest sowings. Other species being evaluated included cocksfoot, tall fescue and grazing brome.

''We really appreciate the support of the Winton A&P,'' Mr Cotching said. ''This relationship helps us look at seasonal growth, persistence, sustainability and the way various species interact with each other with an overall focus on how different mixes might be used in local farm systems.''

Barenbrug Agriseeds local agronomist Shannon Morton will be responsible for the site and was looking forward to sharing it with farmers and anyone with an interest in pasture.
''We're very keen for local feedback and ideas,'' she said,

''The site has been set up with flexibility in mind so we can be creative in our trials and demonstrations, and it will give anyone who is interested in pasture and farm systems a good opportunity to observe and follow our progress.''

The A&P Association's farm runs a commercial Romney flock of 800 ewes plus replacements, as well as functioning as a community educational facility.

The first Barenbrug Agriseeds pasture trials were sown there in 1998 and marketing manager Graham Kerr said the long-standing relationship had been positive and productive for both the A&P Association and the company.

''The co-operation we have with regional research sites like Winton to help us find which pastures and forages perform best in a wide range of conditions and climates throughout NZ,'' he said.

''Over the years the A&P farm has delivered valuable regional data not just for our new pastures but also kale and swedes.''

Hokonui farmer Graeme Anderson, who chaired the board which administered the research farm, said good pastures as a result of the long partnership with Barenbrug Agriseeds had helped it become highly productive.

''If you look at our lambing percentages, lamb weights and grass growth, it's been a win/win situation, especially since the farm itself is relatively small.''

As well as educating cadets, a key goal for the farm was supporting best practice in agriculture and Mr Anderson said having a public trial site for new pastures and pasture mixes fitted in very well with this objective.