This event was made possible with support from the Murray Local Land Services through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.
A series of interactive events were held in 2019 as part of the EVORIL (economically viable options for retired irrigation land) project. These field walk events provided participants with the chance to evaluate the new dryland pasture systems being demonstrated on local farms around the region. The EVORIL project has been running from 2013-18 as part of the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, supported by the Murray Local Land Services. Currently the project has 9 trial/demonstration sites across the western Murray catchment area. These sites have assessed >40 species of grass, legumes and herbs for their ability to be productive, resilient and economically feasible when grown on retired irrigation land.
The first event, held on the 22nd of March 2019 at Pental Island, attended by 85 people, focused on Pasture Establishment, Management & Utilization. The EVORIL pasture mix on display at Pental Island was sown in 2016 consisting of lucerne @ 2kg/ha, wimmera ryegrass @ 4kg/ha and 6kg/ha of a legume (barrel medic, rose clover, snail medic and spineless burr medic). Saltbush was planted in 2016-17 at a density of 825 plants/m2 with an inter-row of 7m. An assessment on the 8th of December revealed a feed on offer of 2t DM/ha of lucerne and between 0.63 - 0.98t DM/ha of Anameka and Narromine salt bush respectively. This feed carried 12 DSE/ha (or 325 ewes on 28 ha) for 127 grazing days!
Project agronomist, Damian Jones (Agresults) provided an overviewof dryland pasture quality and utilization by reviewing feed test results of the improved pasture (EVORIL) system compared with naturalized species. As these new dryland pasture systems require different management to traditional grazing practices, Damian explained a few key considerations to successfully establish these dryland species and maximize overall pasture longevity.
Weed control is essential prior to beginning a pasture improvement program. Barley grass control must start AT LEAST the season before you anticipate sowing as some of the EVORIL project paddocks have seen barley grass be quite a resilient weed and make a re-appearance 2 seasons later.
Higher sowing rates cost more but grow more dry matter and compete with weeds.
Plan for a 2 year sowing program - sow legumes first then the grasses. This allows the clovers and medics to get established, and be able to use a (relatively) cheap Group A herbicide to control any grasses.
Monitor for insects, particularly Red Legged Earth Mite and Lucerne Flea.
The priority of a first year pasture is seed set. Grazing management can be useful in manipulating pasture components but allow the plants to set seed. Seed of most of the pasture species trialed are aerial seeders (unlike subclover) and so are more prone to grazing. Some produce large pods and could be susceptible to overgrazing over summer. Despite the best of grazing management and seasons, some species will not be very prolific in year 2 due to their very hard seeded. This is an advantage in the longer term, as once the seedbank is established, a poor season or opportunity cropping will have only a small effect on the pasture species.
Geoff Duddy (Sheep Solutions) then used the feed test results to explain how to match feed supply with animal requirements and production within the context of the EVORIL system.
The second event was a post-autumn break field walk, held at Murrayview, Cobramunga, on the 11th of June 2019 and attended by 16 people. This site was sown in 2016 to the following species mix: lucerne @ 2kg/ha, wimmera ryegrass @ 4kg/ha, fletcha fescue @ 1.5kg/ha, Haygraze LR Mix (cavalier spineless burr medic, caliph barrel medic, bindaroo button medic, silver snail medic, cobra balansa clover, bortolo bladder clover) @ 6kg/ha, rose clover @ 0.5kg/ha and snail medic @ 1kg/ha.
The site also hosted three different plots of salt bush, including direct sown and transplanted Narromine salt bush, compared with transplanted selectively bred Anameka salt bush. The Anameka variety was chosen for the local region after an extensive CSIRO project which sampled 60,000 variations of salt bush from around Australia.
That year was a particularly wet season and the pasture grew 10t DM/ha and delayed salt bush planting until November, resulting in mixed establishment results. The salt bush planting also limited grazing opportunities both during the season and prior to the autumn break in 2017. Grazing in 2017 revealed some preferences between the saltbush varieties, with the sheep needing to be removed from the Narromine plots before the impacted the dry pasture residues too much. However the sheep had grazed little of the Anameka and bared out the pasture.