Plantain is a broad-leaved perennial forage herb that is an ideal companion in multi-species swards. It is highly productive and provides a high-quality feed that can boost liveweight gain in livestock.
If you are thinking of sowing tonic plantain seed, then you should know it is ideally suited to intensive or rotational grazing systems, with rapid regrowth post-grazing in dry summers.
Tonic plantain seed produces a coarse-rooted plant that is well adapted to a range of soil types. With total annual yields of up to 15 t DM/ha, it has particularly strong spring and autumn growth.
Tonic is the market-leading variety used in the UK. It is an ideal companion for Aber red and white clovers and Aber High Sugar Grasses.
Key benefits of Tonic plantain
- More milk or meat production
- Higher milk production in ewes
- Encourages early forage intakes in lambs to accelerate rumen development
- Increased daily liveweight gain
- Heavier weights at weaning
- High dry matter production from early spring to late autumn
- Reduces the effects of internal parasites
- High in minerals, especially copper and selenium
- Tonic plantain is very palatable
- Diuretic effect firms up the dung and reduces dagging
Successful establishment of Tonic plantain seed
- Control broad-leaved weeds before sowing
- Sow in spring or no later than mid-September
- Seed rate 1-2.5 kg/ha (with grass/clover).
- Well-drained soils
- Drill to a maximum depth of 10mm, or broadcast
- Fertiliser requirements similar to grass
- Use slug pellets to improve establishment
Managing Tonic plantain
- Graze when crop height reaches 100-150 mm (and when plants are resistant to uprooting)
- Rotationally graze for best results (ideally short, light spells in year one)
- Grazing strategy should aim to avoid flower heads developing
- Avoid damage to the crown (e.g. hard grazing in wet conditions), as this will reduce productivity and persistency
- Limit milking cows to 25% of total dry matter intake to avoid risks of milk taint
- If plantain gets out of control, either graze with cattle or top. Grazing is preferable because topping can allow water to penetrate the hollow stem and this can kill the plant
- Growth rates will drop if soil temperature falls below 10°C
- Plantain responds well to nitrogen, but it does not fix N)
When comparing Tonic plantain to perennial chicory, there are several benefits to sowing plantain seed. Tonic plantain can start growing earlier in the spring and performs slightly better if you are seeking year-round production. A further advantage is that Tonic grows later into the summer months.
High in minerals and drought-tolerant
Tonic also offers a rich mineral profile and is high in calcium, copper, selenium and sodium. When growing Tonic plantain, farmers have noticed impressive animal growth rates and high drought tolerance
This is crucial for coping with the seasonal extremes that grassland farming systems are now exposed to in the UK.
Any farmers thinking about sowing Tonic plantain seed should also consider that this herb is less prone to bolting and going to seed when compared to perennial chicory.
Tonic plantain in multi-species swards
Tonic plantain seed can be sown as a complement in a multi-species sward, producing high-quality forage even during difficult conditions.
Perennial chicory is also a highly effective forage crop that can be considered for efficient grassland grazing.