The role of indeterminate growth, rooting depth and maturity time in establishing a legume seedbank under drought conditions

Belinda Hackney1, 3, Simon Flinn1, 3, Jeff McCormick2, 3, John Piltz1, 3, Susan Orgill1, 3

1 NSW Department of Primary Industries, PMB, Pine Gully Rd, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650

2 School of Agriculture and Wine Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650

3 Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries, Pugsley Place, Wagga Wagga, NSW, 2650


Drought can be catastrophic to pasture establishment resulting in establishment failure and financial loss.  A range of annual legumes with varying characteristics (capacity for extended periods of indeterminate growth, varying rooting depth and differing maturity times) were sown in a replicated trial near Kikoira in central NSW where growing season rainfall was only 44% of the long term average. Biserrula, an indeterminate, deep-rooted legume produced more than 170 kg seed/ha with one-third produced prior to the end of October.  French serradella, another indeterminate, deep-rooted species but of later maturity in our study produced more than 85 kg seed/ha. The early maturing gland clover was the most successful of the shallow-rooted species in producing seed, although its seed yield was significantly less than either biserrula or French serradella. Subterranean clover failed to produce seed and annual medics produced less than 10 kg seed/ha. Trifolium diffusum, a little-known species, produced 120 kg seed/ha and requires further assessment of potential. Overall, species with capacity for extended periods of indeterminate growth, deep root systems and/or early maturity were the most successful in establishing a seed bank under severe drought conditions.


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 Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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