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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
16 Pastures BeyOnd the Bale Research push for pasture legumes To increase uptake of the dozens of superior pasture legumes developed by NAPLIP, data on their management is to be collected via collaboration with NSW producers Many new pasture legume varieties offer considerable advantages over older varieties, but there is a lack of information on how to manage them. the cropping phase. That research will be complemented by another 20 farmers who were provided with seed of their choice to conduct five-hectare trials on issues of specific interest to them. The results will be developed into management packages to guide the use of new varieties in different conditions and for various purposes. The first definitive outcomes are expected by 2010, although field days are expected this spring. Project leader Belinda Hackney says new varieties could improve on older types of subclovers and medics which, although widely used and productive, have to be suction harvested. “The manufacture of suction harvesters had By Melissa Marino O ver the past 20 years about 30 new pasture legume varieties have been developed by the National Annual Pasture Legume Improvement Program (NAPLIP). Many offer significant agronomic advantages over older varieties including higher yields, higher levels of hardseed, improved pest tolerance and better adaptation to difficult soils. But although these new legumes have considerable potential for fodder conservation, in cropping rotations or as long-term pasture, there has been a lack of information about how to manage them and little uptake of them in farming systems. Now, new research by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) with partners from Pastures Australia, including AWI, and involving farmers in collaborative research has begun to provide that information. Trials are under way across NSW at sites in low, medium and high-rainfall zones to demonstrate the performance of new legumes in the two areas identified as priorities by farmers: fodder conservation (for silage and/or hay), and in ongoing crop pasture rotations to reduce reliance on inorganic nitrogen in stopped by the early 1980s, so the lifespan of those machines is limited,” she says. “But the majority of new varieties such as biserrula, French serradella and balansa clover can be harvested using a conventional cereal header.” Ms Hackney says that while the new varieties offer fantastic agronomic potential, their management requirements need to be better understood so farmers can capture their full benefit. “We don’t expect them to be particularly fiddly to manage, it’s just that their requirements are likely to be a little different to the species that farmers are used to,” she says. “It’s finding what these issues are that is the focus of this research.” Surveys conducted as the first stage of the project showed new annual legume species were generally grown by less than five per cent of farmers. While such a small uptake is partly due to recent drought conditions, the survey of 300 farmers also revealed that 80 per cent wanted more information. The survey, Ms Hackney says, has been integral to the project in defining its parameters – confirming that the majority of producers want to either maintain or increase their use of pastures in the future, and determining which issues will be studied. ONLINe TOOL AIDS SPecIeS cHOIce An internet tool is being developed to help farmers choose the right pasture for their environment and system. Farmers using the tool will enter details about soil type, rainfall and other conditions, and the intended use of the pasture into the web-based program, which then generates a ‘basket’ of best pasture species for their conditions and needs from some 120 options. “You can then click on those species and you’ll get a simple fact sheet about their management and use,” says co-creator Stuart Brown. The ‘Pasture Selection Tool’, currently in prototype stage, is being developed by Mr Brown and colleagues at CSIRO with funding from Pastures Australia – a partnership between AWI and other rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs). Mr Brown says the information existed before, but in state-based, inconsistent formats that made it difficult for producers or those outside the pasture industry to access. “We wanted to bring the information together into one package at one source to enhance knowledge and competitiveness,” Mr Brown says. The new tool will be accessible to anyone at any time through the Pastures Australia website, which is currently in development. It is due for national release from June 2009. Mr Brown says the tool will be most effectively used in collaboration with pasture advisers who have an intimate knowledge of the local conditions. It would also be a valuable teaching tool for universities and schools. “It is an attempt to bring together all the disparate knowledge of pastures across Australia and to add to the knowledge-base of farmers and pasture people generally.” – MeLISSA MARINo More information: Stuart Brown, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, email@example.com The two areas of interest identified by farmers across all zones were the use of pastures as fodder conservation and in cropping rotations to provide nitrogen. The fodder conservation trials involve 10 species that will be grown and harvested at three different times: for early silage, a hay cut and a late hay cut. Yield and quality will be measured at each harvest and potential animal production from the conserved forage estimated. Nitrogen input from the annual legumes will also be measured. In the second year the sites will be sown over with a cereal and the effect of the different legume species (and different harvest times) on grain yield and quality measured. In the cropping-rotation trials, biserrula and French serradella – two legumes with very high levels of hardseed – will be the main focus. The differences between establishing ongoing, one-on-one crop pasture rotations using un-scarified and scarified varieties of the seed will be investigated and the success of each establishment technique compared according to economic benefit, nitrogen input and fodder production. The management packages based on those trial results will be peppered with case studies of the 20 farm-based trials, some of which are co-located with the on-farm trials and which range from the highly experimental to the very specific. “We’re trying to make it practical and something that farmers can apply,” Ms Hackney says. “We want farmers to get in on the ground floor and contribute to the development of these management packages. By doing this we can make sure they include the crucial information that farmers need to successfully grow and manage these new species.” More information: Belinda Hackney, research agronomist, NSW DPI, Wagga Wagga, 02 6938 1858, firstname.lastname@example.org ú
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08