Peer review: Jake Howie
A progressive shift in the Mallee from cereal dominance to more diverse rotations has increased interest in the re-inclusion of legume pastures in the farming systems. Current returns from the livestock industries support this opportunity as an alternative to growing legume field crops.
To improve the viability of the pasture option, the trial set out to compare the establishment and production of both traditional and alternative pasture legumes through under sowing into a cereal in the year prior to the pasture phase, as opposed to sowing as monocultures in the following year. Benefits which would accrue from successful under sowing would include a lower seeding rate and no requirement to seed the pasture area in the pasture year.
2015 was year 1 of the 2 year project that compared the establishment and seed production, of current (medic and vetch) and alternative (serradella and bladder clover) pasture legumes. They were under sown as unprocessed hard seed and pod (serradella, bladder clover and medic) or as commercial seed (medic and vetch) to a barley crop at 2 sites, a sand and loam at Walpeup.
In year 2, 2016, the productivity of the regenerating 2015 under sown legumes were compared with similar lines sown as monocultures in 2016; unprocessed seed/seedpods of serradella, bladder clover and medic spread in February and medic and vetch commercial seed sown in April.
Why was the project done?
To test Hypothesis 1: There are as reliable and lower cost methods of establishing productive current and alternative pasture legumes than sowing them as monocultures and, Hypothesis 2 There are better adapted and more productive legume forages than vetch for the Mallee.
Hypothesis 1 was supported in that under sowing serradella, annual medic and gland clover in a barley crop at low seeding rates was shown to produce comparable 2016 biomass and seed yield to 2016 sown monocultures. Hypothesis 2 was not supported as the 2016 sown vetch was as productive as the annual medics and serradella on both a loam and a deeper sand.
Mallee Sustainable Farming Inc. Grains Research and Development Corporation, Grain and Graze and Mallee Agricultural Research Foundation for funding of this project.