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Yanda Curly Mitchell grass – Astrebla lappacea also known as Wheat Mitchell grass
Mitchell grass is found in the arid and semi-arid areas of inland Australia in areas which receive an annual rainfall of between 250 to 550mm. It occurs naturally in the downs and rangelands in north-western NSW, and in NT, SA, WA and north and west Queensland. Broken Hill is its most southerly limit. It is commonly found on the floodplains of the upper Darling River and its tributaries. Many areas of natural Mitchell grass pasture have been degraded because of overgrazing, trampling, clearing for cereal production or fire.
There are several species of Mitchell grass, two of the most common being Curly Mitchell grass and Barley Mitchell grass. Curly Mitchell grass is a dense tufted perennial which grows in summer. It is long lived (20-30 years), very deep rooted and grows 30-90 cm high. When in flower, Mitchell grass has a spiked flowerhead 5-30 cm long with stalkless spikelets arranged in two regular rows, one each side. Barley Mitchell grass is very similar, the most observable difference being in the flowerhead. Barley Mitchell grass appears to mature slightly later than Curly Mitchell grass and comes into head about a month later. Barley Mitchell grass has a short wide spike with closely packed spiklets. Both of these grasses can regenerate from their crown, which is usually located within the topsoil. Often after prolonged grazing little can be seen of the plants, but these will usually regenerate with summer rainfall.
Mitchell grass grows on floodplains with grey self mulching clay soils. It also grows on the brown and grey clay cracking soils as well as red alkaline clays. It is sometimes found on desert loams.
- Drought resistant – Mitchell grass has shallow surface roots which can take advantage of light showers of rain, as well as deeper vertical roots to access moisture in the subsoil.
- Low tolerance to flooding
- Dislikes competition from weeds or other species
For optimum germination and growth, temperatures between 25°C and 35°C are required. The best times to sow are in September to October or in late January. To germinate and grow well, it requires follow-up rain at about six weeks. It grows best in warm, wet conditions.
Mitchell grass provides a good year round pasture as as long as it is not overgrazed. It is also useful for revegetation and land rehabilitation in arid and semi-arid areas on suitable soil types.
Notes on varieties:
Native Seeds Pty Ltd holds licences for two varieties bred by NSW Agriculture.
Yanda Curly Mitchell grass Astrebla lappacea
This variety was selected from 289 specimens collected in the wild throughout eastern Australia and was developed by NSW Department of Agriculture supported by woolgrowers and the Federal Government through Australian Wool Innovations Ltd. Yanda Curly Mitchell grass has superior cool season leaf growth as well as warm season leaf production. It has good seed head density and produces good dry matter. Yanda grows to about 15 cm with 22 cm long flowerheads. It is a fast growing summer grass and a valuable fodder resource.
Barley Mitchell grass Astrebla pectinata Turanti
Turanti was selected from 166 wild populations. It is similar to Yanda and has superior cool season and warm season leaf production. It grows about 30 cm high with 67 mm flowerheads.