Tropical grass demonstrations to show potential for southern use

The potential for tropical grasses in the southern part of the region will be on display in a series of demonstration sites by Central West Local Land Services at Bogan Gate, Lake Cargelligo and Gulargambone.

The sites complement a current trial being run by the NSW Department of Primary Industries on the sowing times and species selection for tropical grasses in southern parts.

Central West Local Land Services Mixed Farming Adviser Callen Thompson said producers in northern New South Wales have been using introduced tropical grass in their production systems for many decades.

“Species like premier digit grass, bambatsi panic and Rhoades grass have been shown to increase production while providing good ground cover and drought tolerance,” Mr Thompson said.

“As we move into a changing climate, with an increase in summer dominant rainfall, producers in Central West NSW are looking at options to fit tropical pasture species on their farms.”

Tropical grasses only grow in summer in the Central West, going dormant in winter. Species that do not go dormant are not suitable for sowing in areas that receive frosts. They are a C4 plant which means they are able to grow a significant amount of dry matter and are tolerant to hot dry conditions, unlike some of the introduced temperate pasture species commonly sown.

Tropical grasses have a wide range of soil types they can grow on, Mr Thompson said, with species such as premier digit tolerant to acidic soils and bambatsi panic suited to alkaline soils, even those susceptible to water logging.

“Tropical pastures have their best fit in areas that have been cropping areas, which may be unproductive due to soil constraints, slope or location.

“Paddocks can be sown to tropical to get good ground cover quickly and may never have to be farmed again.

“Tropical pastures can provide a large bulk of feed in summer months. Feed quality can be lower than some commonly used temperate species, but if managed well, they can produce very reasonable weight gains.”

Each demonstration site has 17 different grass and legume varieties, meaning producers will be able to see what is working in their environment.

The demonstration sites also give producers and advisors an opportunity for producers to learn how to identify different species while discussing species suitability, paddock preparation and establishment with Local Land Services staff.

This project is supported by Central West Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

NSW DPI has provided technical support as well as the use of the trial planter.

Seed was supplied by Barenbrug, Selected Seeds and Agrimix Pastures.

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