Economically Viable Options for Retired Irrigation Land (EVORIL)
This project is a joint initiative between WMLIG and Central Murray Bestwool Bestlamb, funded by the Murray Local Land Services through the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.
Trial Site Locations
9 trial sites across the Western Murray catchment
Assessment of >40 grasses, legumes and herbs
Providing a buffer against seasonal variability
Implications for low-rainfall zones throughout Australia
The EVORIL project was initiated in 2013, in response to structural challenges in the community due to the Murray Darling Basin water reform process. EVORIL explores the productivity, resilience and economic feasibility of alternative pasture species on retired irrigation land in the Western Murray Catchment.
Research consists of two components, small plot trials to evaluate new and existing pasture species, and producer demonstration sites sown to species identified as potentially suitable to the local conditions.
Over 40 types of grasses, legumes, herbs and shrubs are being trialled in nine locations for their ability to grow on a rainfall of 300mm, tolerance to a range of soil types, frost, waterlogging and persistence.
Four different strategies were examined in the trials: 1. Annuals that will grow, flower, seed and regenerate next season. 2. Annuals that will maximise growth from rainfall but require re-sowing each season. 3. Perennials, both shrubs, grasses and legumes that will survive the summer 4. Experimental species (natives and exotics) that are currently undergoing evaluation.
Research to date has indicated productivity gains compared with standard district practice. When sown as a pasture mix, EVORIL species provide a buffer against variable seasonal conditions and pest or disease incursions. However, grazing management is crucial. Pasture species should be left to set seed in the first year, with care taken not to overgraze in summer as pods may be consumed. Managed correctly these systems improve persistence, productivity, extend grazing periods and conserve ground cover, while minimising nutrient loss.
The EVORIL project has tailored strategies for weed control and grazing management in these pastures, including:
Control weeds the season before (absolute minimum)
Re-establish grasses into the legume base once the seedbank is non-competitive. Grasses drive productivity and use nitrogen fixed by the legumes.
Prioritise seed set in the first year and ensure stock exclusion during flowering and seed set
Select species and appropriate management strategies to suit your system.
Sow a diverse species mix to provide a buffer against seasonal conditions and provide an integrated approach to nutrient, pest and weed management
The addition of forage shrubs to the pasture system has increased diversity, providing both NRM and livestock benefits, as well as providing a tool to manage climate variability. This has implications for both primary production and NRM in low-rainfall zones throughout mid-southern Australia.
For more information, contact Project Coordinator, Rick Ellis on 0428 372 357