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Improving productivity of rundown sown grass pastures

Sown pasture rundown in grass-only pastures reduces production by approximately 50% and will cost beef producers in northern Australia >$17 billion at the farm gate over the next 30 years. This project aimed to increase the productivity of ageing sown grass pastures (primarily in southern and central Queensland) through an extension program to support landholders to assess and implement on-farm options to improve pasture productivity; and a coordinated research and development (R&D) program to improve the reliability and performance of legumes in grass pastures.
The extension program used a learning-based approach to assist graziers to understand the causes, costs and management options for improving productivity of rundown sown grass pastures and testing them on-farm. Workshops on understanding the causes of pasture rundown and management options to improve productivity of these pastures were attended by 418 graziers. Graziers documented 237 management plans and initiated 157 on-farm trials to test management options. Collectively these graziers manage 814,000ha of sown pastures; 286,000 head of cattle and 42,000 sheep.
Research conducted as part of this project has demonstrated that desmanthus and Caatinga stylo can be persistent and productive on clay soils over a large geographic area of Queensland. Both of these legumes have persisted at a greater percentage of old trial sites than other legume options such as leucaena, butterfly pea or Siratro. Results from grazing trials suggested that desmanthus and Caatinga stylo can improve long-term productivity by approximately 40-100% in live-weight gain per hectare compared to grass only pastures.
Despite the large production benefits demonstrated in trials, both desmanthus and Caatinga stylo have not been widely commercially successful over the last 20 years since they were released to industry. Poor establishment is the most common reason for failure of pasture legumes in existing sown grass pastures, however the methods most commonly used by graziers are low cost and low reliability. Plot trials in this project have shown that dramatically better and more reliable establishment of small seeded legume into existing sown grass pastures is achievable through using agronomic practices that are commonly used by the grains industry (and graziers when establishing leucaena). Industry needs to adopt more reliable establishment techniques when introducing legumes into competitive grass pastures for them to realise their potential to improve productivity and economic returns in the sub-tropics.

B.NBP.0639 Final Report
Volume 1: Project overview, key findings and recommendations
Volume 2: Improving understanding and testing mitigation options with industry
Volume 3: Persistence and comparative productivity of legumes in sown grass pastures
Volume 4: Improving reliability of establishing legumes into existing grass pastures


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842.0KB 10/02/2017
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5.3MB 10/02/2017
2.4MB 10/02/2017


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Improving productivity of rundown sown grass pastures
15/05/2011 09/02/2017

This page was last updated on 03/08/2018