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Persistence and water use efficiency of a tropical grass and lucerne on a solodic soil on the Far North-West Slopes of New South Wales

PG Tow

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 33(2) 245 - 252
Published: 1993


The persistence and water use efficiency of Digitaria eriantha spp. eriantha and Hunter river lucerne were compared on red solodic soil with a hardsetting surface and poor internal drainage, on the North- West Slopes of New South Wales. After prolonged watering, the profile was wet to a depth of 48 ¦ 1.5 cm, with an available moisture store of 90 mm. Over 3 years, persistence of digitaria was excellent. The population of lucerne was reduced following flooding at summer temperatures, Dry matter production of nitrogen (N) fertilised digitaria per mm warm season rainfall was similar to that of tropical grasses adapted to comparable rainfall environments in subtropical Queensland. Lucerne dry matter per mm rainfall was only about half that of digitaria (3.2 v. 6.3 kg). Lucerne grew well in mixture with digitaria except under prolonged wet soil conditions in summer. Artificial solodic profiles were constructed in the glasshouse to compare digitaria and lucerne in monoculture and mixture under varying temperature, moisture, and N regimes. Lucerne showed sensitivity to both high and low moisture levels at summer temperatures but performed very well at spring temperatures and moderate moisture levels where the mean evapotranspiration ratio was 400 g water per g dry matter. Water use efficiency was higher in digitaria than in lucerne, except at spring temperatures without added N. Water use efficiency of the mixture was always similar to that of the most efficient monoculture of the particular treatment.

© CSIRO 1993

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