Resilient Pastures Project

Creating Landscape-scale change through drought resilient pasture systems

Funded by: Australian Government, Future Drought Fund (FDF) Drought Resilient Soils and Landscapes Grants program

Duration: June 2022 – June 2024

Amount: $109,470


MFS is continuing two established experiments that have a primary focus on the long-term persistence of grasses, alternative legumes and lucerne varieties. The Resilient Pasture Project provides a critical opportunity to resume these experiments that support future resilience in Monaro pasture systems.
Three demonstration sites have been set up on the Monaro including two (2) at Burando, Bombala and one (1) at “Kenilworth”, Springfield Road.

Trial 1
: Which of a range of alternative pasture species deliver equivalent or better persistence than existing benchmark species, through variable growing seasons on the Monaro?
Species production measurements (dry matter cuts and plant frequency counts) are being continued to give a data set from 2019 to 2024. Some of the species being trialled include tall fescue, cocksfoot, perennial ryegrass, prairie grass, chicory, plantain, phalaris, and brome. The legumes include white clover, Caucasian × white clover cross, Caucasian clover, talish clover, red clover, strawberry clover, subterranean clover and lucerne.

Trial 2
: What degree of winter dormancy in a lucerne variety best suits the unique climate of the Monaro (i.e., very cool winters and significant summer rainfall), to achieve herbage production during key feed gaps that is balanced with long term persistence ie which dormancy rating is best suited to use the rainfall in our wetter months and shut down during our drier months.
The challenge is how to best manage lucerne growth profiles to conserve soil moisture at strategic times of the year. The trial at Maffra was sown in September 2021 with varieties of differing winter-dormancy ratings with the specific objective of understanding which varieties provide a good balance between winter production and longer-term persistence.
This site has been revived and measurements of 20 varieties will continue to record production (DM) and relative dormancy assessments as well as herbage yield in winter versus summer.
Trial 3
: Does a traditional phalaris/lucerne/subterranean clover pasture mix provide the best solution for optimised seasonal production, botanical stability and long-term persistence?

Where lucerne can be grown on the Monaro (i.e., well-drained soils with favourable pH), it is used as the base of a premium pasture system for animal prediction. The deep rooted nature and seasonal growth pattern of lucerne provides advantages (drought tolerance; summer production) and disadvantages (very dry soil profiles in autumn-winter) that impact the compositional stability of mixed pastures and the ability of this pasture system to provide feed into a winter feed gap.
The hypothesis that will be tested include “grass is essential for maintaining a reasonable level of winter production” and “a reduced lucerne composition may lift winter productivity due to water-sparing over summer, (with some cost to summer production?)”
Measurements at this site include herbage mass, botanical composition, and soil moisture profile under the control pasture.