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Field evaluation of perennial grasses and herbs in southern Australia. 1. Establishment and herbage production

K. F. M. Reed A B I K , Z. N. Nie A I , S. Miller C I J , B. F. Hackney D I , S. P. Boschma E I , M. L. Mitchell F I , T. O. Albertsen G I , G. A. Moore H I , S. G. Clark A I , A. D. Craig C I , G. Kearney A , G. D. Li D I and B. S. Dear D I
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Victorian Department of Primary Industries, PB 105, Hamilton, Vic. 3300, Australia.

B Present address: Reed Pasture Science, 430 Beveridge Road, Hamilton, Vic. 3300, Australia.

C South Australian Research and Development Institute, Struan Research Centre, PO Box 618, Narracoorte, SA 5271, Australia.

D EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

E NSW Department of Primary Industries, 4 Marsden Park Road, Calala, NSW 2340, Australia.

F Victorian Department of Primary Industries, RMB 1145, Chiltern Valley Road, Rutherglen, Vic. 3685, Australia.

G Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food, 10 Dore Street, Katanning, WA 6317, Australia.

H Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food, South Perth, WA 6983, Australia.

I Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia.

J Present address: South East Natural Resources Management Board, Mount Gambier, SA 5290, Australia.

K Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48(4) 409-423
Submitted: 10 May 2007  Accepted: 21 December 2007   Published: 7 March 2008


To review pasture species for regions with 465–680 mm average annual rainfall, 22 perennial grasses and herbs were evaluated for pasture establishment and productivity in four states at seven locations where the arrest of groundwater recharge is considered necessary to ameliorate dryland salinity. Species represented introduced and native, temperate and subtropical grasses, chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) and plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.). This report describes establishment and yield; the following paper describes persistence and root characteristics. Yields were measured over 2–3 years except at one site, which suffered severe drought. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L., cv. Avalon) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb. = syn. Lolium arundinaceum. (Schreb.) Darbysh., cvv. AU Triumph and Resolute MaxP), cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L., cv. Porto) and phalaris (Phalaris aquatica L., cv. Holdfast and Australian) were the most productive species, with dry matter (DM) yields of 13.6–15.1 t/ha. For summer growth, Porto and Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana Kunth, cv. Katambora) were the most productive species; relative to Australian in summer, Porto and Katambora produced 41% and 26% more DM, respectively (95% confidence). Perennial ryegrass (cv. Avalon), tall fescue (cv. Resolute MaxP) and chicory (cv. Grouse) were particularly valuable for autumn growth; Avalon was 30% more productive than Australian. Tall fescue (cv. Resolute MaxP) was 32% more productive than Australian in winter. Avalon and AU Triumph were the most productive grasses and herbs in spring. Based on natural rainfall over the 2–3 years of measurement, the mean water use productivity, ignoring any runoff, was 10.5 kg DM/ for the three most productive species. Apart from kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra Forssk), native grasses gradually established, but over a prolonged period weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides (Labill.) R.Br., cv. Wakefield) was the most rapid. Perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, cocksfoot and phalaris maintained productive yields across a diverse range of soils and climates. Exploration of the diversity within these species in a nationally coordinated program of genetic improvement appears warranted for improving reliability and expanding the zone of adaptation.

Additional keywords: endophytes, summer-dormant, winter-active.


For their cooperation in providing access and facilitating cultivation, soil pits and grazing, we acknowledge the landowners who made this field study feasible, viz. Rex and Matthew Allan, Byawatha, Vic.; the late Simon Gubbins, Hamilton, Vic.; Don Densley, Keith, SA; N & J Threthowan, Kojonup, WA; Angus and Tiffany Faulks, Manilla, NSW; and John Stephens, Warrak, Vic. The Grains Research and Development Corporation and Glenelg–Hopkins Catchment Management Authority provided financial support. Mr Peter Cross, Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment conducted endophyte detection tests for perennial ryegrass. Ms Bronwyn Clark DPI Vic., managed the seed acquisition, testing, storage and distribution as well as assisting with the field work. Also for technical support in the field, we thank Vincent O’Shea, Fiona Cameron, Jamie Smith, Wayne Dempsey, Richard Hayes, Mark Brennan, Brian Roworth, John Titterington, Trevor Rowe, Steve Biggins and Carolyne Hilton. For help with site selection and soil analysis, we thank staff in the soils program of the CRC Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, especially Austin Brown and Mark Imhoff.


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