Cover cropping and establishment of lucerne-based pastures in a semi-arid zone, mixed-farming system of uniform rainfall distribution

M.R. Norton, E.A. Koetz - Grass and Forage Science, 69, pages 334-347

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

This research article looks at cover cropping and the establishment of lucerne-based pastures in a semi-arid zone, mixed-farming system of uniform rainfall distribution. This research highlights the greater lucerne forage production attained either as a pure ward or undercover crops with low levels of biomass.

What is the problem?

This research was conducted to study the effect of cover crop sowing rate, row spacing and cultivar on the establishment of lucerne-based pastures in a semi-arid zone mixed-farming system.

What did the research involve?

The experiment was conducted at three sites over three consecutive years in south-eastern Australia. The weather of these 3 years subjected the establishing swards to a vastly differing range of moisture conditions.

What were the key findings?

Conditions were so dry in the first year that lucerne swards failed to establish although it appeared at an early stage that there were advantages when lucerne was sown as a pure sward. By contrast, in the 2nd and 3rd years, moisture conditions at two of the three sites were so favorable that satisfactory densities were attained in all treatments. Lucerne forage yield was a more sensitive parameter than density to establishment method as it illustrated trial treatment effects during these wetter years when lucerne density alone could not. Thus, greater lucerne forage yields in the first summer after cover crop harvest under pure-sward establishment in comparison with establishment under a cover crop were seen at both Ardlethan and Barellan over both the 2nd and 3rd years of trials. Furthermore, the trial at Goolgowi in year 3 showed that when moisture was moderately limiting lucerne establishment, and yield is benefitted by sowing under a short, erect barley cultivar than under a taller and more spreading barley variety.

Final Comment

The trials described here have aimed to determine the relative importance of the factors of cover crop sowing rate, cover crop row arrangement and cover crop cultivar on the establishment of lucerne-based pastures using lucerne forage yield and density as the criteria of establishment success.

2013 - Australia - M.R. Norton, E.A. Koetz - Grass and Forage Science, 69, pages 334-347
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