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Pastures for resilient farming systems

Chinchilla Region Landcare and DEEDI are supported by the Birchip Cropping Group (based in Victoria) to demonstrate and test practices that will help people to remain viable in our increasingly variable and perhaps changing climate. These activities are heavily focused on using pastures to maintain soil health and the ability to change between crops and pastures as conditions vary. If conditions do become drier and more variable, then pastures will become a safer option for many mixed farmers. However, to maintain profitability we must be able to establish them quickly, and maximise production. So we are testing demonstrating ways to do this, including planting pastures into moisture like a crop for reliable establishment, ensuring pastures contain productive legumes to avoid rundown over time, and using phosphorus to maintain strong legumes growth and animal production. Strong pastures will also build soil organic matter with the organic carbon and nutrients to support yields when pastures are returned to grain production. The Shamrock site at Greg and Gwenda Olms is looking at planting pastures like a crop; into moisture to speed up the changeover, and using phosphorus to ensure the legumes perform. However, local farmers are testing and demonstrating many practices that may help people adapt to our increasingly variable and difficult climate:
Grower Glen Beasley Jim Bourke Dennis Dickman Murray Sturgess Tony Pascoe Terry Elliott Don Bell Cullen Trial Tony Pascoe John Mason Ian Kerr Greg Olm Activity Planting new pasture (Rhodes, creeping blue, Bambatsi, Premier digitaria). Demonstrate legume introduction (eg Desmanthus) to improve feed and nitrogen levels in the system. Planting Leucaena, urocloa with varying fertiliser rates (Control 0, standard, double) to assess impacts on establishment and production. Looking at soil benefit of 7 yrs of Rhodes pasture, ley pasture effect on soil health and structure. How it compares with long term cropped country. Looking at Nitrogen applications to pastures with (Green) urea. Also spraying and cultivating strips in existing grass pastures to aid legume establishment. Benefit of manure crop on production and soil structure compared to traditional fertiliser options. Manure added 2.5 years ago (15 t/acre), manure out of feedlots. Samples cut 17/06/2011. Pasture cropped oats vs pasture cropped oats with legume (snail medic) added. Measure the results and continue to renovate the country. What is the effect of the legumes on the system? Looking at options as climate change may change the reliability or rainfall during growing seasons. Looking at coal seam gas water for reliable production. . Is the suggested new legume (Cullen) suited in this environment and able to provide a viable alternative (option) to deal with Climate change? Long term cropping adjust nitrogen rates (0, 50 and 100 kg N/ha as urea) for grain and silage sorghum systems.how does the rundown of nutrients and carbon compare with greenchop? Demonstration Strips of Control (no fert)- yield of 1379Kg DM/ha. 180 kg/ha MAP yield of 3200 kg DM/ha (extra 13 kg per kg N). 100 kg/ha Urea yield of 7408 kg DM/ha. An adaptation option by improving pasture production in the system. Will be sowing medics into pasture as strips to compare the best varieties and strips as a way to introduce the legumes. Needed for long-term production in our environment. Major Replicated demonstration due to replant in spring with new grass seed (purple pigeon grass) and Legume (Burgundy Bean). Looking at Phosphorus rates on pasture establishment.

This project is funded by GRDC and the Australian Governments Climate Change Research Program

Soil Carbon changes with Pastures


Soil organic carbon - CROPPING versus CROPPING + SOWN PASTURE
Continued cropping
2.5

Returned to pasture after cropping

Total soil organic carbon in 0-10 cm (% )

1.5

0.5

22 +2 3p as tu re ) M 93 /9 4 (4 0

30 +2 0p as tu re )

30 +2 0p as tu re )

20 +2 0p as tu re )

15 +1 5p as tu re )

15 +1 0p as tu re )

vs

vs

vs

vs

35 +1 0p as tu re )

vs

vs

vs

vs

vs

(1 5

(4 0

(3 0

vs

(3 0

(5 0

(4 0

(3 0

G 24 /2 5

G 18 /1 9

J8 0/ 81

(4 5

(2 5

After hundreds of soil tests across Queensland in the last few years we know that good pastures can rebuild the organic matter, soil carbon and nutrients that cropping removes Good grass/legume pastures are the key to sustain profitability when old crop land is retired to grazing Maintain soil phosphorus is critical to keep legumes productive for strong grass growth and soil carbon levels

The Shamrock Trial


Grass species like purple pigeon and Bambatsi Panic can be planted into moisture like a crop to ensure fast and reliable establishment. You dont have to wait for rain. However, persistent legumes are often small seeded and are better planted onto a dry surface. The trial showed that even with 30 mm of rain within a week of planting, the establishment was 80% higher where the grass was sown into moisture. This effect may be much larger if rain was delayed, so the pasture would normally be much further advanced. Legume establishment was 20% lower sown into moisture, confirming the need for shallow planting of these small seeded species Phosphorus responses are not clear although dry matter production will be measured in the coming weeks

Desmanthus
Desmanthus is proof that we have persistent legumes that will go the distance. They are lasting for a long time and are clearly contributing to pasture and animal production. When nitrogen levels are low, the legume component of pastures may increase. However, when the legumes have fixed more nitrogen and improved the soil, the grasses will return become more competitive and come back with a vengeance.

Combined grass legume pastures will give great production and will boost the soil organic matter, soil carbon and soil nutrients that will support healthy crops at a later time.

M 69 /7 0

G 28 /2 9

G 14 /1 5

G 12 /1 2

G 10 /1 1

T 58 /5 9

J8 2/ 83

(4 5

vs

10 +3 0p as tu re )

ur e)

22 +8 pa st ur e)

15 +3 pa st

40 +7 pa st

ur e)