Farm Table says:
What is the problem?
The commonly sown pasture legumes in southern Australia are sensitive to the combination of salinity and waterlogging. Messina (Melilotus Siculus) is an annual pasture legume with much higher salt tolerance as both seedlings and mature plants than other legumes and with similar waterlogging tolerance to balance clover (Trifolium michelianum).This paper discusses the ecology, physiology, and agronomy of Messina, progress towards its commercialization as a new pasture species for saline, waterlogged soils and further work required.
What did the research involve?
Glasshouse and laboratory studies have identified several mechanisms for salt and waterlogging tolerances that explain its adaptation to saline, waterlogged soils. Trials through the Future Farm Industries CRC are underway in South Australia and Western Australia to select the best adapted of 21 Messina accessions for release as a new cultivar. Selection is also being conducted for a salt tolerant Rhizobium strain able to persist over summer and nodulate regenerating Messina plants.
What were the key findings?
Messina is capable of producing abundant legume production in waterlogged environments with summer soil surface salinity ECE values >8 dS/m, where all other pasture legumes fail to prosper. It will markedly increase the productivity of sea barley grass flats and be a companion legume to puccinellia and tall wheatgrass or as an understorey legume to saltbush.
Conservative estimates suggest Messina can improve productivity by 4 dse/ha across an area of 600,000 ha, with lesser gains being achieved across another 1 million ha. A new Messina variety, along with an adapted salt-tolerant Rhizobium strain, will be released to the seed industry in 2013.