Evaluating pasture species for less fertile soils in a subtropical aseasonal low rainfall zone

Richard G. Silcock, Terry J. Hilder, Cassandra H. Finlay

Abstract


Grasses, legumes, saltbushes and herbs were evaluated at 6 sites in southern inland Queensland to identify potential pasture and forage plants for use on marginal cropping soils.  The region experiences summer heat waves and severe winter frosts.  Emphasis was on perennial plants, and native species were included.  Seedlings were transplanted into the unfertilized fields in either summer or autumn to suit the growing season of plants, and watered to ensure establishment.  Summer-growing grasses were the most successful group, while cool season-growing perennials mostly failed.  Summer legumes were disappointing, with Stylosanthes scabra and Indigofera schimperi performing best.  Some lines such as I. schimperi and the Eragrostis hybrid cv. Cochise were assessed as potential weeds owing to low animal acceptance.  Native Rhynchosia minima grew well at some sites and deserves more study.  Cenchrus ciliaris was always easy to establish and produced the highest yields.  Persistence of some Digitaria and Bothriochloa species, Eragrostis curvula and Fingerhuthia africana at specific sites was encouraging, but potential weediness needs careful assessment.  Standard species were identified to represent the main forage types, such as Austrostipa scabra for cool season-growing grasses, for incorporation into future trials with new genetic materials.  The early field testing protocol used should be considered for use elsewhere, if unreliable rainfall poses a high risk of establishment failure from scarce seed.

Keywords: Evaluation technique, Queensland, non-legume herbs, subtropical grasses.

DOI: 10.17138/TGFT(2)223-245

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17138/tgft(2)223-245

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