Legumes pass drought test
16 January 2015
Research agronomist Dr Belinda Hackney has been evaluating the performance of hard-seeded legume varieties in NSW farming systems for the past 13 years.
Belinda, who works for Charles Sturt University (CSU), said the big test for these legumes was the drought period and their performance was surprising, because traditional legumes were just not working.
“These varieties out-yielded traditional legumes, such as sub-clover, three- to eight-fold (depending on where they were planted),” she said.
Since 2007, Belinda has led the MLA-funded Pastures Australia project ‘Agronomy and Management of New Annual Legumes’, which has delivered on-farm management packages for biserrula, bladder clover and French serradella.
Her current MLA-funded project work is examining how the plants behave under different climatic conditions.
“The legumes are behaving quite differently in NSW, compared to how they behave in Western Australia,” Belinda said.
“For example, biserrula is extremely hard-seeded in Western Australian situations. Producers there will sow it in year one, allow it to set seed and then crop over it in year two, as very little comes up in that second year due to high hard seed levels.
“They might then crop over it for several more years before allowing it to regenerate from seed set in the first year.
“By contrast, in NSW, biserrula has always regenerated strongly in the second year.
“We’ve just come out of our first large-scale, on-farm 2:2 pasture-crop rotation, and the biserrula has regenerated beautifully in the fifth year.”
Belinda is now turning her attention to the legume pastures’ potential for prime lamb production.
“In spring, we started tracking liveweight gains and condition scores on prime lambs grazing the legumes,” Belinda said.
“Over summer, we’ll be looking at the feeding value of the dry residue for maintaining ewe condition and whether these legumes can make a substantial difference to the need for supplementary feeding over that period.
“We’ll also be conducting pen feeding trials at CSU in Wagga Wagga, because these legumes have a lot of potential as conserved forages.
“We hope to have our first animal production data by next autumn and we’ll update our information packages as that data becomes available.”
Read MLA's legume management guides
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