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

Effects of grazing on wheat growth, yield, development, water use, and nitrogen use

J. M. Virgona A , F. A. J. Gummer A and J. F. Angus B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Agriculture, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.

B CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57(12) 1307-1319
Submitted: 16 March 2006  Accepted: 7 August 2006   Published: 21 November 2006


The effect of grazing by sheep during the late vegetative and early reproductive phases was measured on long-duration wheat crops in 2 experiments on farms in southern NSW. In both experiments, grazed and non-grazed crops were compared with different N-fertiliser strategies. In the first experiment, grazing 40 dry-sheep equivalents (DSE)/ha for 19 days increased grain yield from 2.30 to 2.88 t/ha in a season with a dry early spring. The second experiment, in a more favourable season, compared 6 durations of grazing by an average of 32 DSE/ha. The effects of grazing varied from no yield reduction with 15 days of grazing to a reduction from 5.97 to 3.98 t/ha with 51 days of grazing. In both experiments grazing caused slower crop development, with about 1 day’s delay in anthesis and maturity for every 4–5 days of grazing. Different patterns of water use by grazed and non-grazed crops, combined with delayed development, explained much of the effects of grazing on yield. The soil accumulated more water during grazing, which was used during grain filling when water-use efficiency for grain production was high. Delayed development also allowed grazed crops to respond to later rain. In the second experiment, grazing resulted in a net loss of 38 kg N/ha from the crop. Despite reduced N levels, the grazed crops showed no greater ability than grain-only crops to recover fertiliser N. The effect of the low recovery was that N removed during grazing was not efficiently replaced by fertiliser.

Additional keywords: dual purpose, deferred water use, phasic development, root growth, nitrogen recovery, sheep.


We are grateful to Hugh Dove for helpful discussions, to landholders Peter Holding, Stuart Hulme, and Phillip Hulme for their cooperation, advice, and livestock management, to Shane Hildebrand and Tony Swan for technical assistance, and to GRDC for funding support.


Abbate PE, Andrade FH, Culot JP (1995) The effect of radiation and nitrogen on number of grains of wheat. Journal of Agricultural Science 124, 351–360.

Allan CJ , Bell AK (1996) ‘PROGRAZE manual.’ (NSW Agriculture and Meat Research Corporation: Orange, NSW)

Anderson WK (1985) Production of green feed and grain from grazed barley in northern Syria. Field Crops Research 10, 57–75.
CrossRef |

Angus JF, van Herwaarden AF (2001) Increasing water use and water use efficiency in dryland wheat. Agronomy Journal 93, 290–298.

Anon. (1997) Dry sheep equivalents for comparing different classes of livestock. Agriculture Notes AG0590. Department of Primary Industries, Vic., Australia.

Bennie ATP, Taylor HM, Georgen PG (1987) An assessment of the core-break method for estimating rooting density of different crops in the field. Soil and Tillage Research 9, 347–353.
CrossRef |

Christiansen S, Svejcar T, Phillips WA (1989) Spring and fall grazing effects on components and total grain yield of winter wheat. Agronomy Journal 81, 145–150.

Craswell ET, Godwin DC (1985) The efficiency of nitrogen fertilizers applied to cereals in different climates. Advances in Plant Nutrition 1, 1–55.

Dann PR, Axelsen A, Dear BS, Williams ER, Edwards CBH (1983) Herbage, grain and animal production from winter-grazed cereal crops. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 23, 154–161.
CrossRef |

Davidson JL , Christian KR , Bremner PM (1985) Cereals for the high rainfall zone of temperate Australia. In ‘Proceedings of the 3rd Australian Agronomy Conference’. pp. 112–125. (Australian Society of Agronomy: Hobart, Tas.)

Dove H, Holst PJ, Stanley DF, Flint PW (2002) Grazing value of dual-purpose wheats for young sheep. Animal Production in Australia 24, 53–56.

Dunphy DJ, McDaniel ME, Holt EC (1982) Effect of forage utilization on wheat yield. Crop Science 22, 106–109.

Evans LT (1960) Inflorescence initiation in Lolium temulentum L. I. Effect of plant age and leaf area on sensitivity to photoperiodic induction. Australian Journal of Biological Sciences 13, 123–131.

Fischer RA (1985) Number of kernels in wheat crops and the influence of solar radiation and temperature. Journal of Agricultural Science 105, 447–461.

Fischer RA, Kohn GD (1966) The relationship of grain yield to vegetative growth and post flowering leaf area in the wheat crop under conditions of limited soil moisture. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 17, 281–295.
CrossRef |

Forster HC, Vasey AJ (1931) Grazing cereal crops. Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Victoria 29, 369–372.

Francia E, Pecchioni OL, Destri Nicosia G, Paoletta G, Taibi L, Franco V, Odoardi AM, Delogu PA (2006) Dual-purpose barley and oat in a Mediterranean environment. Field Crops Research 99, 158–166.
CrossRef |

Freer M, Moore AD, Donnelly JR (1997) GRAZPLAN: decision support systems for Australian grazing enterprises-II. The animal biology model for feed intake, production and reproduction and the GrazFeed DSS. Agricultural Systems 54, 77–126.
CrossRef |

French RJ, Schultz JE (1984) Water use efficiency in wheat in a Meditteranean type environment. 1. The relation between yield, water use and climate. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 35, 743–764.
CrossRef |

Genstat (2003) ‘Statistical package for Windows.’ (Lawes Agricultural Trust, Rothamsted Experimental Station: UK) (

Haydock KP, Shaw NH (1975) The comparative yield method for estimating dry matter yield of pasture. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 15, 663–670.

van Herwaarden AF, Angus JF, Farquhar GD, Howe GN, Richards RA (1998) ‘Haying-off’, the negative grain yield response of dryland wheat to nitrogen fertiliser. I. Biomass, grain yield and water use. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 49, 1067–1081.
CrossRef |

Isbell RF (2002) ‘The Australian soil classification.’ Revised 1st edn (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne, Vic.)

Kemanian AR, Stockle CO, Huggins DR (2005) Transpiration-use efficiency of barley. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 130, 1–11.
CrossRef |

Khalil IH, Carver BF, Krenzer EG, MacKown CT, Horn GW (2002) Genetic trends in winter wheat yield and test weight under dual-purpose and grain-only management systems. Crop Science 42, 710–715.

Leuning R, Condon AG, Dunin FX, Zegelin S, Denmead OT (1994) Rainfall interception and evaporation from soil below a wheat canopy. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 67, 221–238.
CrossRef |

Loomis RS , Connor DJ (1992) ‘Crop ecology.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

MacKown CT, Carver BF (2005) Fall forage biomass and nitrogen composition of winter wheat populations selected from grain-only and dual purpose environments. Crop Science 45, 322–328.

Moncur MW (1981) ‘Floral initiation in field crops.’ (CSIRO: Melbourne, Vic.)

Monteith JL (1981) Does light limit crop production? In ‘Physiological processes limiting plant productivity’. (Ed. CB Johnston) pp. 23–68. (Butterworths: London)

Muir CE , Virgona JM , Angus JF (2006) Grazing effects on the retranslocation of assimilates during grain filling of wheat. In ‘Proceedings of the 13th Australian Agronomy Conference’. (Eds NC Turner, T Acuna, RC Johnson)

Nix HA (1971) Environment in relation to crop production. In ‘Proceedings of a Workshop on Crop Production and Marketing, Southern Tablelands, NSW’. pp. 1–16. (Australian Institute of Agricultural Science: Canberra, ACT)

Pugsley AT (1983) The impact of plant physiology on Australian wheat breeding. Euphytica 32, 743–748.
CrossRef |

Pumphrey FV (1970) Semidwarf winter wheat response to early spring clipping and grazing. Agronomy Journal 62, 641–643.

Redmon LA, Horn GW, Krenzer EG, Bernado DJ (1995) A review of livestock grazing and wheat grain yield: boom or bust? Agronomy Journal 87, 137–147.

Redmon LA, Krenzer EG, Bernado DJ, Horn GW (1996) Effect of wheat morphological stage at grazing termination on economic return. Agronomy Journal 88, 94–97.

Scott BJ, Conyers MK, Poile GJ, Cullis BR (1997) Subsurface acidity and liming yield of cereals. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 48, 843–854.
CrossRef |

Sharma DL, Anderson WK (2004) Small grain screenings in wheat: interactions of cultivars with season, site, and management practices. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 55, 797–809.
CrossRef |

Sharrow SH, Motazedian I (1987) Spring grazing effects on components of winter wheat yield. Agronomy Journal 79, 502–504.

Sprague MA (1954) The effect of grazing management on forage and grain production of rye, wheat and oats. Agronomy Journal 46, 29–33.

Swanson AF (1935) Pasturing winter wheat in Kansas. Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 271.

Thomason WE, Raun WR, Johnson GV, Freeman KW, Wynn KJ, Mullen RW (2002) Production system techniques to increase nitrogen use efficiency in winter wheat. Journal of Plant Nutrition 25, 2261–2283.
CrossRef |

Winter SR, Musick JT (1991) Grazed wheat grain yield relationships. Agronomy Journal 83, 130–135.

Winter SR, Thompson EK (1990) Grazing winter wheat I. Response of semidwarf cultivars to grain and grazed production systems. Agronomy Journal 82, 33–37.

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (65)

View Altmetrics