Maximise plant water use
Evapotranspiration has the greatest impact on the water cycle, but it is the water that goes through the plants (transpiration) that drives pasture growth.
A plant only uses water when it has green leaves, so maximising plant water use is about maximising the amount of green leaf throughout the year.
Deep-rooted perennial pasture species, such as lucerne, phalaris, cocksfoot, wallaby grass, microleana and fescue stay green, growing and using water for longer than annuals. This causes a shift in the peak rate of water use towards summer and increases the total annual water use.
Under the right soil and climatic conditions, summer-growing perennial grasses, such as kikuyu and tropical species such as Premier digit and Katambora Rhodes grass have been shown to use more water than the traditional, winter-growing grasses.
Make pastures as productive as possible through tactical grazing to encourage the continuous production of green leaves. Tactical grazing, fertilisers and insect control can boost green leaf production and total water use.
Encourage active root growth by controlling root-feeding insects, such as cockchafers, and rotationally grazing.
Strategic fertiliser use can further encourage root growth.
All the above management practices can increase total water use by up to 25% compared with an annual pasture.
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