Over 25 land managers attended the annual spring Economically Viable Options for Retired Irrigation Land (EVORIL) field day on 3rd October held over three locations in the former Wakool Shire region. Importantly the participants represented 16,107 ha of land, of which 3,475 ha was retired irrigation land and 12,632 ha of dryland never irrigated.
The EVORIL project has tested over 40 types of grasses, legumes, herbs and shrubs for their ability to grow on a rainfall of 325-375mm, tolerance to a range of soil types, frost, waterlogging and persistence. The trials have occurred at nine sites in the last 4 years in very different seasonal conditions. Promising species from the trials so far are Barrel Medic, Spineless Burr Medic, Snail Medic, Rose Clover, Gland Clover, Wimmera Ryegrass and Mediterranean Fescue.
WMLIG Project Agronomist Damian Jones said ‘preparation and site management was imperative for successful pasture establishment of the promising trial species. As a result EVORIL has developed a management system with a set of useful strategies, particularly seen as being crucial for the regeneration and persistence of new dryland pasture systems, including:
Controlling weeds the season before (absolute minimum).
If grass weeds such as barley grass are a particular problem, plant legumes so that grasses can be selectively controlled then re-establish grasses into the legume base once the seedbank is non-competitive. Grasses drive productivity and use nitrogen fixed by the legumes.
Higher sowing rates cost more but grow more biomass and compete with weeds.
Many of the promising species are aerial seeders and require appropriate grazing management in the first season to ensure seed set and subsequent regeneration.
Select species and appropriate management strategies to suit your environment and system
Most people attending the field day commented that they had or will make changes to their own farming practices based on the results from the local field trials. Others indicated they are awaiting further trial outcomes. Rick Ellis, WMLIG Project Officer said ‘uptake of the EVORIL project concept is encouraging. 64% of surveyed participants are already making on farm changes due to the project covering 2,000 ha in the last two years. 100% of attendees intend to make changes in the future, representing 1,500 ha of land conversion next season’.