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Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

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: john.angus@csiro.au

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57(12) 1307-1319 https://doi.org/10.1071/AR06085
Submitted: 16 March 2006  Accepted: 7 August 2006   Published: 21 November 2006

Abstract

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.


Acknowledgments

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.


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