Farm Table says:
What is the problem?
The seed and forage production of a diverse group of the perennial forage legume Cullen spp., collected in southern Australia, was assessed with the aim of discovering diversity for exploitation in future breeding programs.
What did the research involve?
Eighty ecotypes were assessed at the Waite Institute in South Australia, using replicated, spaced-plant field trials, between 2008 and 2012. Seed production in collected ecotypes of Cullen (Expt 1) ranged from 0 to 485 kg ha–1 for windrowed seed yield and from 0 to 790 kg ha–1 for total seed yield, which included vacuum-harvested seed from pods that had fallen to the ground. Individual plants were selected for seed production from their original populations, and the seed and fodder production of their progeny was evaluated in a further field experiment (Expt 2).
What were the key findings?
Moderate to high heritability estimates were recorded for seed production traits. Seed production in progeny families ranged from 0 to1 423 kg ha–1 and was highly correlated with the number of seeds per inflorescence (r = 0.85) and forage yield (r = 0.59). Edible biomass, measured using the Adelaide visual appraisal method, ranged from 50 to 906 g dry weight (DW) plant–1 in parent ecotypes and from 404 to 1248 g DW plant–1 in the selected family progenies. Disease infection with anthracnose (Colletotrichum trifolii) caused considerable damage to plants in Expt 1, resulting in the death of all plants of 10 ecotypes, and infection with alfalfa mosaic virus in Expt 2 was linked to the death of 67 individuals.
High commercial seed yields of >1 t ha–1, directly harvested from a window, are achievable for C. australasicum using a combination of the best genetics and seed production management practices. This should ensure that the production of low-cost seed is not a limiting factor to the adoption of this species as a forage plant in low-input systems.