Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Establishment and summer survival of the perennial legumes, Dorycnium hirsutum and D. rectum in Mediterranean environments

L. W. Bell A C D , G. A. Moore B C , M. A. Ewing C and S. J. Bennett C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Department of Agriculture Western Australia, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia.

C CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45(10) 1245-1254
Submitted: 28 October 2004  Accepted: 3 May 2005   Published: 15 November 2005


The genus Dorycnium has been identified for its potential use as a forage plant for southern Australia, but little is known about factors affecting establishment and survival. This investigation examined some factors affecting the establishment of D. hirsutum and D. rectum in Mediterranean environments of south-west Western Australia. The population dynamics of D. hirsutum and D. rectum seedlings were investigated during the summer drought in 4 environments. The effect of time of sowing on establishment and survival of D. hirsutum was tested as a management option for improving establishment of these species.

Poor seedling performance was observed in both Dorycnium species. Less than 20% of D. rectum plants survived the summer drought at all locations, compared with >50% for D. hirsutum seedlings. Poor seedling vigour coupled with weed competition resulted in low plant numbers at 2 sites. Compared with autumn sowings, populations of D. hirsutum sown in August and September had lower plant densities before summer due to poorer seedling emergence. Plant numbers declined during the summer in all plots, but losses were greatest in those sown in September. In both experiments, small D. hirsutum plants survived in plots where little competition was present. Improvements in seedling vigour may be possible with plant breeding but establishment methods that reduce weed competition are valuable. Spring sowing may enable effective weed control before seeding, but later sowings run the risk of reducing seedling emergence and survival.

Additional keywords: drought, canary clover, seedling, perennial pasture.


For their assistance, we would like to thank Bradley Wintle, John Titerington and Tony Albertsen for carrying out plant tracking and taking plant density measurements at Katanning and Bibby Springs Thanks to Richard Bennett and Claire Farrell for their help at Merredin with sowing and taking measurements, and to Aleida Williams for her help with stem water potential and survival measurements. Thanks must also go to the Trifolium Genetic Resource Centre, Department of Agriculture Western Australia for providing seed and to the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, Jean Rogerson Memorial Trust, and to the AW Howard Memorial Trust for providing the primary author with a stipend.


Bell LW (2005) Relative growth rate, resource allocation and root morphology in the perennial legumes, Medicago sativa, Dorycnium rectum and D. hirsutum grown under controlled conditions. Plant and Soil 270, 199–211.
CrossRef |

Bennett SJ (2002) Distribution and economic importance of perennial Astragalus, Lotus and Dorycnium. In ‘New perennial legumes for sustainable agriculture’. (Ed. SJ Bennett) pp. 90–115. (University of Western Australia Press: Crawley, Western Australia)

Brockwell J, Neal-Smith CA (1966) Effective nodulation of hairy canary clover, Dorycnium hirsutum (L.) Ser. in DC. Field Station Record 5, 9–14.

Campbell MH , Hosking WJ , Nicholas DA , Higgs ED , Read JW (1987) Establishment of perennial pastures. In ‘Temperate pastures: their production, use and management’. (Eds JL Wheeler, CJ Pearson, GE Robards) pp 59–74. (Australian Wool Corporation/CSIRO: Canberra, ACT)

Campbell MH, Swain FG (1973) Factors causing losses during the establishment of surface-sown pasture species. Journal of Range Management 26, 355–359.

Cocks PS (2001) Ecology of herbaceous perennial legumes: a review of characteristics that may provide management options for the control of salinity and waterlogging in dryland cropping systems. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 52, 137–151.
CrossRef |

Crampton B (1946) Hairy canary clover. Californian Agriculture 18, 12–13.

Cransberg L, McFarlane DJ (1994) Can perennial pastures provide the basis for a sustainable farming system in southern Australia? New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 37, 287–294.

Cullen NA (1970) The effect of grazing, time of sowing, fertiliser and paraquat on the germination and survival of oversown grasses and clovers. In ‘Proceedings of the XI international grasslands congress’. Surfers Paradise, Australia. (Ed. MJT Norman) pp. 112–115. (University of Queensland Press: St Lucia, Qld)

Dear BS, Moore GA, Hughes SJ (2003) Adaptation and potential contribution of temperate perennial legumes to the southern Australian wheatbelt: a review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 43, 1–18.
CrossRef |

Demiriz H (1970) Dorycnium Miller. In ‘Flora of Turkey and East Aegean Islands’. (Ed. PH Davis) pp. 512–518. (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh)

Douglas GB (1994) ‘Alternative legume species in New Zealand: a review.’ (Department of Primary Industries: South Australia)

Douglas GB, Foote AG (1994) Establishment of perennial species useful for soil conservation and as forages. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 37, 1–9.

Horsnell L (1985) The growth of improved pastures on acid soils. 1. The effect of superphosphate and lime on soil pH and the establishment and growth of phalaris and lucerne. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 25, 149–156.
CrossRef |

Irigoyen JJ, Emerich DW, Sanchez-Diaz M (1992) Alfalfa leaf senescence induced by drought stress: photosynthesis, hydrogen peroxide metabolism, lipid peroxidation and ethylene evolution. Physiologia Plantarum 84, 67–72.
CrossRef |

Latta RA, Blacklow LJ, Cocks PS (2001) Comparative soil water, pasture production, and crop yields in phase farming systems with lucerne and annual pasture in Western Australia. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 52, 295–303.
CrossRef |

Latta RA, Cocks PS, Matthews C (2002) Lucerne pastures to sustain agricultural production in southwestern Australia. Agricultural Water Management 53, 99–109.
CrossRef |

Martyn RS , Heard AR (1982) Plant density decline of dryland lucerne during establishment. In ‘Proceedings of the 2nd Australian agronomy conference’. pp. 176–179 (Australian Society of Agronomy: Wagga Wagga)

Ridley AM, Christy B, Dunin FX, Haines PJ, Wilson KF, Ellington A (2001) Lucerne in crop rotations on the Riverine Plains 1. The soil water balance. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 52, 263–277.
CrossRef |

Virgona JM (2003) Effect of lucerne density on soil moisture content during summer in southern NSW. In ‘Proceedings of 11th Australian Agronomy Conference’. (Australian Society of Agronomy: Geelong)

Ward PR, Dunin FX, Micin SF (2001) Water balance of annual and perennial pastures on a duplex soil in a Mediterranean environment. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 52, 203–209.
CrossRef |

Wills BJ (1983) ‘Forage plants for the semi-arid high country and rangelands of New Zealand.’ (Centre of Resource Management, Lincoln College, Special publication 26: Canterbury, New Zealand)

Wills BJ (1984) Alternative plant species for revegetation and soil conservation in the tussock grasslands of New Zealand. Tussock Grasslands and Mountain Lands Institute Review 42, 49–58.

Wills BJ, Begg JSC, Foote AG (1989a) Dorycnium species — Two new legumes with potential for dryland pasture rejuvenation and resource conservation in New Zealand. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 50, 169–174.

Wills BJ , Begg JSC , Sheppard JSS (1989 b) Dorycnium and other Mediterranean species — their use for forage and soil conservation in semi-arid environments in New Zealand. In ‘Proceedings of XVI international grassland congress’. p. 1517. (Association Francaise pour la Production Fourragere, Centre National de Recherche Agronomique: Versailles, France)

Wills BJ, Trainor KD (2000) Successful drilling of forage species during severe drought in Central Otago — a preliminary report 1998/99. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 62, 207–211.

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (6)