Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Pastures
GROUND COVER PASTURES 16 DISPENSING WITH THE traditional ‘book’ on pasture plants for the wheatbelt has tossed up a range of perennial pastures that look like both improving the econom- ics of the cropping zone across Australia and keeping at bay environmental prob- lems such as salinity. A ‘shotgun’ approach to selecting new perennials has revealed new pasture plants that have performed extremely well, despite being outside the area where they have been traditionally grown. Big winners have been chicory, subtrop- ical grasses for northern NSW and parts of WA, cultivars of cocksfoot, phalaris and fescue and the subtropical legume, lotononis. The GRDC-funded project – conducted across four states by researchers from the Cooperative Research Centre for Plant- based Management of Dryland Salinity (CRC Salinity) – is seeking new perennials to fill feed gaps and reduce recharge in the wheat belt. “It is the most comprehensive nation- ally coordinated evaluation of new pasture species ever conducted, with more than 80 sites spread over four states, stretching from Katanning in WA to Tamworth in northern NSW,” project leader Dr Brian Dear says. “Pastures are an integral part of many enterprises in the cropping zone, have major economic benefits in terms of enter- prise diversification and are also crucial for controlling herbicide resistant weeds. Pastures are also the key to long-term crop- ping sustainability. “The challenge we faced was to improve the amount of perennials on cropping properties. Even farms with perennials such as lucerne can still have a significant winter feed gap, as lucerne tends to com- pete strongly with more winter-productive species such as subclover. “So we started with a blank sheet of paper with no preconceptions, but every species had to survive over dry summers and preferably be complementary with lucerne. “The dry run of years, while obviously far from ideal for cropping enterprises, has been really good for challenging the drought tolerance in the species we tested. “While lucerne will continue to be the ‘king of fodders’ in the cropping zone, it does have its problems. “For instance, it is easily grazed out in large paddocks where adequate rotational grazing is difficult – and there is a limit to how much lucerne you want on a farm, particularly given winter feed problems. It also performs poorly on acid soils and soils prone to winter waterlogging.” Tossing the book at new pastures PROJECT: NATIONAL FIELD EVALUATION AND SELECTION OF NEW PASTURE PLANTS FROM THE CRC SALINITY TO IMPROVE HYDROLOGIC STABILITY OF FARMING SYSTEMS. MATTHEW CROSBIE PERENNIALS Cattle grazing on Katambora Rhodes grass in northern NSW, which was sown in 2004.
GC Supplement - Growers sharing knowledge
GC Supplement - Subsoil constraints