Prospects for improving the performance of mixed pasture swards by spatially separating components in drill rows

Richard C. Hayes1,3,5, Guangdi D. Li1,3, Vadakattu V. S. R. Gupta 2, Tim R. Hutchings3, Graeme A. Sandral1, Tony D. Swan4, Mark B. Peoples4, Tom L. Nordblom3, Rick S. Llewellyn2

1 NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Pine Gully Rd, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Email richard.hayes@dpi.nsw.gov.au

2 CSIRO Agriculture and Food, PMB 2, Glen Osmond, SA, 5064

3 Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650

4 CSIRO Agriculture and Food, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601

5 University of Tasmaina, Private Bag 3523, Burnie, Tas, 7320

Abstract

Maintaining desirable species in a mixed pasture sward is an ongoing challenge for growers in south-west NSW, particularly in lucerne-based pastures. This study examined the prospect of addressing this concern through separating species in drill rows at sowing, a practice change which represents a minimal impost to the farmer. A sensitivity analysis using the ADOPT decision support tool showed that the relatively low level of investment required to try the practice meant that there was potential for relatively rapid adoption provided environmental and/or profitability benefits could be demonstrated. A financial risk analysis determined that, for the scenarios tested on a 1000 ha farm, whole-farm profitability could be increased by between $523 and $3162 for every 1% increase in pasture production. Results from field experiments at 5 locations showed that spatially separating species enhanced the persistence of subterranean clover in perennial-based swards but effects on biomass were mixed. Annual pasture production was never significantly greater where subterranean clover was planted in separate drill rows compared to where it was grown in mixed rows with lucerne or phalaris, but in year 1 at three sites biomass decreased by as much as 130% due to the separation of subterranean clover in drill rows. The study also unexpectedly demonstrated an enduring legacy of the original sowing row, with soil microbial populations shown to be twice as abundant under the sowing row compared to between rows in the third year following sowing.

Host

The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography david_marland@hotmail.com Southern Farming Systems Agriculture Victoria

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