HOW TO USE THIS ONLINE MAGAZINE
by clicking the arrows at the side of the page.
by clicking anywhere on the page. A slider will appear, allowing you to adjust your zoom level.
and move the page around when zoomed in by dragging the page.
and return to the original size by clicking on the page again.
by entering text in the search field and click on "In This Issue" or "All Issues" to search the current issue or the archive of back issues
a PDF of this magazine.
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
a page via email, Facebook, Twitter and more.
TO VIEW PREVIOUS EDITIONS
, click the
button at the bottom of the screen.
Beyond the Bale : March 2015
ON FARM 47 Researchers have found a new perennial legume native to rangeland in South Africa that could turn areas of Australia that have unproductive sandy soils into profitable land for wool-growing enterprises. Lebeckia is a shrub legume that grows about knee high; it is a herbaceous plant above ground and woody below ground. A team from Murdoch University began field trials of the Lebeckia shrub four years ago and is currently assessing the soil fertility benefits, the optimum methods for establishment and the harvesting of seeds to enable larger sowings. Farm scale trials are being held near Tincurrin, 50 km east of Narrogin in Western Australia, with support from the South West Catchments Council (SWCC) through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Murdoch University Centre for Rhizobium Studies Director, Professor John Howieson said the development of Lebeckia is a breakthrough for woolgrowers and mixed farm enterprises. “After more than ten years of looking for a perennial legume that could grow on the very poorest of soils, and be adapted to the increasingly variable climate, Lebeckia has emerged as the most interesting of all those legumes we found. It will persist and grow over summer, won’t drop its leaves, and provides both grazing and shelter for sheep,” Professor Howieson said. “Our aim had been to find a legume that would grow on the types of sands where Tagasaste (tree Lucerne) has been successful, but without the costly management issue of Tagasaste which has to be cut and carried for sheep feed. We have found a replacement in Lebeckia, which doesn’t need to be cut and carried, and therefore makes it more amenable to sheep production.” The trials are being carried out on deep Christmas tree sand (also known as silver loam) in the SWCC catchment area of WA. This is a common problem soil type, of which there are about one million hectares in southern Australia. Currently there are very limited grazing options for farmers with this sort of soil, and it mostly gets left and not farmed. “The significance of Lebeckia is massive,” Professor Howieson said. “We’ve found a plant adapted to sandy infertile soils that have summer drought – that’s like finding the holy grail of legume science. There is no doubt that the shrub will turn these deep non-wetting sands into profitable country for growers. I don’t know anyone who has made profitable use of these soils in the past.” The growth patterns of Lebeckia are currently being examined. Research is showing that Lebeckia will grow for three or four years, and during that period will improve the fertility of the poor soils. “From our soil analysis, Lebeckia is improving the carbon content, and the phosphorus and potassium nutrition of the soil, and to a depth in excess of one metre. By just looking at the paddock you can clearly see that once you’ve established Lebeckia then the other grasses and herbs and legumes are doing so much better. After the fourth year, the plant starts to die back, but we have seen a high level of seedlings germinate from the seed produced in the previous season. With Murdoch University Honours student Tom Edwards we are examining whether we can develop a hard seed bank under Lebeckia, as we can for our annual legumes.” Dr Howieson said that, based on grazing studies last autumn carried out by a second Murdoch University Honours student Samantha Lubcke, Lebeckia has real potential to close the feed gap for animals through summer and autumn. “Woolgrowers will be able to graze their sheep on high quality feed during this period. It produces good forage and better nutrition for animals, fixes nitrogen and is very efficient for P and K fertilizer. It ticks all the usual boxes that legumes do. “We are also seeing Lebeckia take advantage of ‘out of season rains’ that hit Western Australia after the harvest. Lebeckia plants doubled their biomass at Tincurrin between November and January. The plant takes up the residual deep soil moisture, meaning there is less for the melons, wire weed, and other summer weeds that farmers would normally have to control. This is another way Lebeckia can help farmers adapt to climate variability.” Lebeckia is a legume that can produce a lot of seed and can be established by seed through a normal seeding program, which makes it easy for farmers that are already familiar with handling small seeds and establishing pastures. The Lebeckia domestication program has attracted wide farmer interest and is now at the stage where industry funds are required for broader agronomic evaluation. Professor John Howieson of the Murdoch University Centre for Rhizobium Studies with the new shrub legume Lebeckia. Lebeckia is a new perennial legume that can turn unproductive deep sandy ground into profitable land for wool-growing enterprises. Lebeckia can provide woolgrowers with good nutrition for their sheep over the traditionally challenging summer and autumn feed gap. Research trials indicate that the carbon content and the phosphorus and potassium nutrition of sandy soils increases strongly after Lebeckia cultivation. FOR GRAZING SANDY SOILS BREAKTHROUGH