Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Modelling the comparative growth, water use and productivity of the perennial legumes, tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) and lucerne (Medicago sativa) in dryland mixed farming systems

Chao Chen A C , Andrew Smith B , Phil Ward A , Andrew Fletcher A , Roger Lawes A and Hayley Norman A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Private Bag 5, PO Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

B Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: chao.chen@csiro.au

Crop and Pasture Science 68(7) 643-656 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP17131
Submitted: 30 March 2017  Accepted: 2 August 2017   Published: 1 September 2017

Abstract

Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) has been proposed as an alternative perennial forage legume to lucerne in the mixed farming zone of Australia. Simulation of growth and production of tedera would be a useful tool for assessing its integration into Australian farming systems and agronomic and management options. This paper describes the development and testing of a model of the growth and development of tedera in Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM). The existing APSIM-Lucerne was modified to develop APSIM-Tedera. The key physiological parameters for tedera were obtained from the literature or by measuring and comparing the phenology and growth characteristics of tedera and lucerne in glasshouse experiments and partially from field experiments. The model was tested using data from a diverse range of soil and climatic conditions. Using the modelling approach, the production of tedera and lucerne was also assessed with long-term (1951–2015) weather data at Arthur River, Western Australia. Biomass simulations of tedera (n = 26, observed mean = 510 kg dry mass ha–1) explained 66% of the observed variation in field experiments (root mean square deviation = 212 kg dry mass ha–1). Long-term simulations of a 4-year pasture phase showed that more total annual biomass (5600 kg ha–1) would be obtained from lucerne than tedera if the pasture forage was harvested four times a year. Less biomass (400 kg ha–1) was also simulated for tedera in summer under this management. When the pasture forage was harvested when biomass was more than 2000 kg ha–1, tedera and lucerne produced similar accumulated biomass in the second (8000 kg ha–1), third (12 000 kg ha–1) and fourth (15 000 kg ha–1) years, but much less in the first 2 years for tedera. The model can be used for assessing tedera production, agronomic and management options in the Mediterranean climate of Australia. The present preliminary study indicates that tedera is not as effective as lucerne for total biomass production, but it may provide useful feed in situations where the summer-autumn feed gap is a major constraint to production. Further research is also necessary to determine the potential role of tedera in areas where lucerne is not well adapted.

Additional keywords: APSIM, forage legumes, lucerne biomass, model performance, tedera production.


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