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Beyond the Bale : March 2012
24 24 SELLING MORE WOOL September 2010 BEYOND THE BALE March 2012 BEYOND THE BALE 24 ON-FARM Sheep producers in the Kyneton district in central Victoria have been keenly following the results of local pasture trials evaluating a range of perennial pasture varieties including more aluminium tolerant varieties of phalaris. The perennial pasture trials have been supported by the EverGraze project and are being co-ordinated by Mackinnon Group consultant Lisa Warn. The trials are located on the property of Michael and Bernadette O’Sullivan of ‘Theadon’, Pastoria. Michael runs sheep and beef enterprises. The property is located in the granite hills in central Victoria and receives around 700mm average annual rainfall. Soil fertility is around target levels in most improved paddocks due to the good history of superphosphate applications. Potash is also applied where necessary. The average stocking rate is 13 DSE/ha. Winters are very cold in this environment, resulting in low pasture growth rates. The local producer group has been exploring ways to boost winter feed supply through the use of more winter-active perennial species, rotational grazing and tactical use of urea. Their other aim is to incorporate summer-active species into pastures on parts of their farms to provide high quality feed to help finish young stock. Apart from the cold winters, there are several other challenges to managing this granite country. Soils are acidic and tend to have high aluminium levels in the topsoil and subsoil. The light sandy soils are prone to nutrient leaching and erosion, and the long growing season and high rainfall make it the ideal environment for bent grass to invade pastures. Winter-active perennial options in the district have been traditionally perennial ryegrass and cocksfoot. Consultant Lisa Warn says many of the local producers are keen to make more use of phalaris on their farms but the concern about whether it would persist with the high sub-soil aluminium has been a barrier. “ Landmaster phalaris has improved tolerance to aluminium compared to older phalaris cultivars but the real hope is that the new Advanced AT will cope with up to 30 per cent aluminium (as a percentage of the cation exchange),” L isa says. “ These cultivars are being assessed in paddock scale demonstrations and in a small replicated experiment at Pastoria. Michael Joss, from Seedmark, is managing the experimental component which is providing comparative dry matter production and persistence data for a range of perennial grass species and varieties.” Producer Michael O’Sullivan says he is impressed with phalaris. “ I think phalaris is a very valuable grass due to its persistence in dry times and ability to hold light granite soils with its dense root mass,” M ichael says. “ I would like to get more phalaris established on the property, but wasn’t sure it would persist with our high aluminium levels. “ We have been liming paddocks over the years so the pH and aluminium is no longer a problem in the surface soil but we still have high aluminum levels down at 30-40 cm. In the paddock where I sowed the phalaris, the topsoil pH(CaCl2) was 5.4 with no aluminium whereas the subsoil was only pH 4.3 with 25 per cent aluminum. “ It is still early days, but I am very impressed with the amount of production we have got off the Landmaster and the Advanced AT phalaris compared to the Banquet II perennial ryegrass paddock we sowed at the same time.” The paddocks were sown in spring 2010 after a bent grass control program in the preceding two years involving spraying with glyphosate, a crop of Winter Star Italian ryegrass and then Winfred rape. The newly sown pastures were first grazed in March 2011 and have been rotationally grazed, with grazing days being recorded. “The phalaris has been outstanding, carrying 17 DSE/ha in its first year (2011). The Banquet II ryegrass carried a total of 11 DSE/ha,” L isa says. “The phalaris provided 20 per cent more grazing days in winter compared with the ryegrass. With production like this, it will only take 4-5 years for Michael’s investment in pasture establishment to reach the break-even point – that is, when it becomes more profitable than the unimproved pastures.” Funding for this work has been provided by the Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum (CHAF) via a grant from Caring for our Country. The work is supported by Mackinnon, Seedmark, Victoria DPI, Future Farm Industries CRC, MLA and AWI. More information: Lisa Warn, firstname.lastname@example.org New phalaris for acid soils FAST FACTS l An EverGraze Supporting Site in Central Victoria is trialling perennial pastures and the establishment of phalaris on high acid/aluminium soils. l EverGraze Supporting Sites are demonstrating how the ‘Right Plant, Right Place, Right Purpose, Right Management’ principle can be applied in local environments. l An investment in productive new phalaris will potentially provide pay back on that investment after only 4-5 years. Producers inspect perennial grass trial at Pastoria, Victoria.