Native Grass pastures

9 Examples of Increased Profit with Australian Native Grass Pastures

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I am assuming you are on this blog because you are interested in how to use and work with Native grass pastures either for sustainability, drought tolerance and year round feed. Maybe your interest is erosion control, how to build soil structure and health, increasing carbon storage through the deep perennial roots, or maybe it’s to assist in the prevention of laminitis if you have horses and other animals prone to this sometimes fatal disease.

Are you farming on brittle land with limited water resources and income for fertiliser and sowing of annual crops and superphosphate?

Are Native Grasses the quiet achievers?

Anyone who works on the earth has seen first hand the impact of increased temperatures and decreased rainfall on their pastures. There is an increasing interest in how to manage Australian native grass pastures by Holistic management, intensive close cell grazing, moving fencelines, smaller paddocks, and long rest periods between grazing.  Many people are now looking to people like Col Seiss Winner of  National  Landcare Champion of the Year 2014 and watching Alan Savory on Ted talks and Joel Salatin.

I learnt at the Murrumbateman Field days recently that properties with native grass pastures are now attracting a premium because they are drought tolerant and providing food throughout the year. That is a huge shift in thinking, but it’s not mainstream as yet.

Here are some interesting examples courtesy of Dr Meredith Mitchell at Rutherglen DPI.

Native pastures prove their value with Chris Mirams at Woomargama
Case study of increasing value of native pastures through management Ian Locke
Implementing whole farm strategies at holbrook with john keogh
Grazing management makes the difference by Judy and Chris from Griffiths Wangaratta

Paddock subdivision allows more strategic grazing by terry Hubbard from the Three sisters
Case of study with Janet and Stuart Morant from Tallangatta valley in Victoria

Research:

Higher stocking rates but lower animal performance on native pasture rotational grazing systems
Integration of native and improved pasture systems increases profit
Native pastures can be utilised profitably in ewe based systems

Australian native pasture seed online booklet

 For more info download this FREE  Australian native pasture seed online booklet from the pastures page of our website. 

 

Wallaby grass pasture ( Rytidosperma orAustrodanthonia sp)

Wallaby grass pasture ( Rytidosperma orAustrodanthonia sp)

 

7 Steps to successfully sowing native grasses

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7 Steps to successfully sowing native grasses

  1. Sow seed into a weed free bed
  2. Good soil preparation
  3. Sow the seed at the right time of year
  4. Sow the seed at the correct depth
  5. Water
  6. Maintain good weed control
  7. Be Patient

Having a successful establishment of Australian native grasses is not really difficult. There have been many failures in the past resulting in prejudice. However, it is most likely that this has been the result of a number of factors;

  • poor seed
  • poor knowledge of germination requirements
  • assumptions about the desired conditions for germination Using incorrect sowing times and depths combined with poor quality seed will inevitably lead to failed results

In the past high quality seed has not been readily available. Remnant stand harvests are not reliable as purity and germination percentages are often low. A recent test by Native Seeds of some Wallaby grass harvested from a remnant stand showed not only around 15 other species included, but also only a 4% germination of the Wallaby grass present. Good knowledge of the ideal germination conditions has not been widely available and is only now becoming more widespread through groups such as the Stipa Native Grass Association and the SA Native Grass Resources Group.

It is often assumed that as native grasses are very hardy and able to withstand drought and other hardships that the seed will be able to establish on hard, dry soils with no attention whatsoever. Unfortunately this is not the case and our grasses require every bit as much attention as the exotics.

Indeed for many of our grasses seedling recruitment is a relatively rare event and only occurs when conditions are absolutely perfect. This may be as infrequent as one year in ten when the lucky co-incidence of plentiful rainfall, appropriate temperature and sunlight are able to promote a flush of germination of the desired grass.

There are a number of factors that contribute to a successful result when sowing native grasses.

1. Have good weed control prior to sowing

Native grass seedlings are slow to establish and will not compete well with many exotic weeds which establish far faster and spread more rapidly.

2. Have good soil preparation at sowing

The better the soil to seed contact that is maintained, the higher the rate of germination of seeds. So a fully prepared seedbed will always give higher establishment rates than an unprepared or partially prepared seedbed. Even if the area being sown is very small, then a well prepared seedbed will yield better results

3. Sow them at the most suitable time of year

For all species there is an optimum temperature for establishment. It varies from species to species but usually it is from autumn to spring for cool season species and from spring to early summer for warm season species. The exception to this comes when irrigation is available as this then allows the sowing of cool season species in summer (albeit with much more effort). The key factors we have found are firstly, to sow the cool season species when moisture can be guaranteed to remain around the seed for 3 to 4 weeks after sowing, and secondly, for warm season species to focus on times when temperatures are above 25oC and try to provide a wet-dry-wet watering regime with pronounced periods of dry soil conditions.

4. Sow with appropriate equipment

The most suitable equipment is that which sows the seed to the preferred depth (usually 10 to 15 mm or about œ inch) and which can meter it out regularly and evenly. With our new pelletized seed becoming available almost all pieces of conventional equipment can sow native grass seed successfully.

5. Apply irrigation if necessary

This might seem odd for native grasses, but they do respond to irrigation or rainfall at appropriate times. It may be that for some high value jobs it is best to establish the native grasses with temporary irrigation systems that are removed once the grasses become established.

6. Maintain good weed control through the early seedling stages of growth

As stated earlier native grass seedlings are not usually strong competitors against weeds. They are normally tolerant of broadleaf herbicides once they reach the 5 leaf stage so this method can be used for broadleaf control. Grass weeds can be more difficult, but the slow growth rate of the natives can be of some benefit here as wick-wiping of the taller growing exotics can be quite selective and mowing to remove the seedheads of annuals can reduce the number of seedlings in the following year.

7. Be patient

Please be patient. These grasses are wonderful long-term competitors once they are established, but are slow to get established and have many slow growth stages during their development. Frustration will set in at various times, but if you can be patient, the results will be there.