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Effects of a spring-sown brassica crop on lamb performance and on subsequent establishment and grain yield of dual-purpose winter wheat and oat crops

W. M. Kelman A B and H. Dove A
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A CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47(7) 815-824
Submitted: 20 June 2006  Accepted: 19 December 2006   Published: 2 July 2007


We evaluated the integration of a spring forage brassica crop (Brassica campestris cv. Hunter) into a cereal–pasture rotation, as a means of assessing the effects of this practice on the subsequent establishment and grain yield of wheat and oat crops. A brassica crop was grown for lamb production on 0.2 ha plots prepared for dual-purpose cereals, in spring 2003 near Canberra, ACT, Australia. Mackellar winter wheat and Blackbutt oats were sown in the following autumn on the previously sown brassica plots and on plots left fallow over the spring–summer period. A factorial experiment was used to determine the effects of (i) cultivar, (ii) brassica v. fallow, and (iii) grazing on cereal establishment and grain yield. Lamb liveweight gains on brassica over 33 days were rapid (294 g/day) and provided 2141 grazing days/ha and 637 kg lamb weight gain/ha. Average grain yield of Mackellar on plots following brassica (2.8 t/ha) was reduced by 29% compared with plots following fallow. Average grain yield on grazed plots (2.6 t/ha) was reduced by 38% compared with ungrazed plots. In both Mackellar and Blackbutt, reduced numbers of kernels per spike and reduced kernel weight accounted for the reduction in grain yield under grazing. Two other experiments were conducted at a separate site to obtain data on the nutritive value of the cereal forages and to record phenological development of the two cereals and compare grain yield responses to cutting before and after stem elongation stages. In vitro and in vivo measurements of digestibility in the vegetative phase were similar in the two cereals (91–94%). Grain yield was significantly reduced following cutting at the post stem elongation stage in Mackellar and Blackbutt and, in Mackellar, was attributable to reduced kernel number per spike and kernel weight. The overall economic return, combining actual returns from lamb production on the forage brassica, and estimated returns from grazing and grain production, after variable costs of each phase were accounted for, were $1117/ha for Mackellar wheat and $1081/ha for Blackbutt oats. These returns were $583/ha and $910/ha more than the estimated return from the fallow, ungrazed treatments for wheat and oats, respectively.


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