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A guide to the recovery of Mitchell grass
In western Queensland, severe drought conditions began in late 2001 and did not generally ease until the 2008/09 summer. Despite the ability of Mitchell grass plants to become dormant during drought, a large proportion of plants appeared to be dead rather than drought-dormant by the end of the 2002/03 summer. Tillers and remaining leaves were blackened and unpalatable to livestock. The term Mitchell grass dieback was coined by producers and other observers to describe what had occurred, although most were confident that the grass would recover with the breaking of the drought. Mitchell grass plants generally failed to respond to widespread average summer rains in early 2004 (> 250 mm).
Observation suggested that moisture had penetrated to a soil depth of about 60 cm and a response from plants was expected. When there was no general response, research into the reasons for this was initiated (NBP.348 'Mitchell grass death in Queensland: extent, economic impact and potential for recovery'; 2005-07). This included an investigation of discrete areas of pasture that had responded to the 2003-04 summer rain. Further declines in condition of Mitchell grasslands occurred between winter 2005 and winter 2006 and, by 2006, field surveys indicated that 53% of this pasture community was in poor (C) condition, primarily due to dieback. Measurements at some sites suggested practices such as wet season spelling and burning can pre-condition Mitchell grass pasture for greater resistance to drought-induced dieback. However, the casual mechanisms and the effective timing and frequency of these practices remained unclear.
This page was last updated on 24/07/2017
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