Erosion control using Australian native grass

Picking your grass: Locally Harvested or Selectively Bred?

Many supplier of Australian native seeds obtain stock through harvesting seed from remnant stands of vegetation in a specific geographic area, we have termed this ‘locally harvested’ grass seed. This technique allows for tracking of seed ‘provenance’, but may have variability in the quality and quantity of seed available, as well as potentially depleting the seedbank in remnant stands of vegetation.

At Native Seeds we have taken a different approach; we have ‘Selectively Bred’ our grass varieties. Through collaboration with a number of government organisations and institutions we have bred varieties of Australian native grasses with certain traits. For example Griffin weeping grass has been bred for its low mowing requirements, high shade resistance and low fertiliser requirements making it ideal as a native grass lawn. We produce these varieties in an agricultural setting and all seed is Australian Seed Federation accredited to ensure that you only receive high quality seed.

The question often arises as to why the use of ‘selectively bred’ varieties of native grasses rather than ‘locally harvested’. Our reasons are:

  1. The selected types have been selected for specific purposes. The characteristics that they have been selected for gives the purchaser a guarantee that it will do as it is desired. Buying seed that is locally available cannot give you that guarantee.
  2. They are grown under highly managed conditions where they are harvested at their peak, where weeds are controlled and where inputs such as water and fertilizer are provided as needed. The locally collected material is just that- it is collected, often without any weed control, usually without any inputs and mostly it is harvested when it suits the operator, not necessarily when the seed is best.
  3. The selection has usually been done for some highly significant factor which has real practical implications. For example comparing two varieties of weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides). The one called Ovens has been chosen as it has high seedling vigour and adaptability across many soil types. While the variety Griffin has been selected for finer leaves and more dense foliage.
  4. Other varieties have been chosen for their tolerance to frost, for size, for seed yield, or for a combination of those factors. The characteristics that have been used in the selection process carry through into the next generations and will help get the desired results.
  5. They have been evaluated across a range of sites and only the best have been retained. Breeding programs are slow and elaborate processes that involve assessments across multiple sites. As an example the CSIRO breeding program that eventually gave rise to Tangara Kangaroo grass involved assessment on four sites of wide geographic range and showed the ability of this variety to perform well in a range of different environments.

In summary, there is a lot of time, money and research involved in selecting the best of the best varieties of each grass type. Next time you choose which grass you want, for example Wallaby grass, think about the characteristics you would like this grass type to have. Do you want it to reach up to a metre in height for pasture or revegetation? Or do you want it to reach a maximum of 30cm for a lawn, park, golf course etc? What kind of soil does it need to grow in? How much heat, drought or even frost will it need to tolerate? Whatever your conditions the Seed Consultant’s at Native Seeds will be able to provide you with guidance as to what species will work best for your conditions and purpose.