Chicory is a perennial herb that is often grown commercially as a leaf vegetable or salad green in Europe. Chicory was re-assessed as a potential forage crop in the mid-1970s in New Zealand. After ten years of breeding the world’s first forage variety of chicory became commercially available in 1985. A range of different varieties are now used worldwide. Chicory can be grown as a stand-alone crop or as part of a mixed sward. The benefit of growing chicory in a mixture is that its rapid growth in summer, drought tolerance and relatively high protein content, complement the shortfalls in the other species. In general, chicory does combine well with other grasses and clovers.
Chicory is a herb and not a legume, so additional nitrogen is essential for growth. Clover is a good companion crop. Fertiliser applications need to be applied later than on grass, due to its growth pattern. Little and often generates the best response. Chicory leaves are very palatable to grazing livestock. However, the flowering stems that develop when the crop bolts are far less palatable and have a lower nutritive value than the leaves so good grazing management is key.
In terms of sowing, seed rates vary between depending on the companion species and target population although 0.8kg/acre is the standard for most multi species mixtures. Sowing in late spring is recommended, as growth is limited when soil temperature is less than 10°C. Chicory can be sown up to mid-August as part of a mixed sward depending on soil conditions but the challenge is to establish the Chicory within the multi species crop and graze it before soil temperatures fall below 8°C and winter dormancy occurs.