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Palatability and cultivar selection in the eragrostis curvula complex

W.H. Johnston

Soil Conservation Service Research Centre, Wagga Wagga, NSW, 2650

E. curvula (Schrad) Nees is an apomictic, C4, tussock-forming perennial grass native to Southern Africa. Although relatively unpalatable, it is highly regarded for live stock and hay production and for soil conservation purposes in Southern Africa, America and Argentina.

In New South Wales the species is potentially valuable for pastoral and soil conservation purposes in drier areas (1), but its usefulness is offset by highly unpalatable, aggressive, naturalized types occurring in Tableland and Coastal areas. Research began in 1974 aimed to define more palatable types from a large and variable population with a view to selecting commercial cultivars.


Sheep have been allowed periodic free choice access to replicated spaced rows of selected E. curvula accessions. During grazing, palatability was

rated on a ten-point scale according to forage consumption, on a daily basis, for each row. At the conclusion of grazing, scores were summed for each accession over replicates and grazing days and the result expressed in proportion to the least grazed accession (relative palatability rating).

Results and discussion

Relative palatability rating for five of the selected accessions for a number of grazing periods at a number of sites is given in Table 1. Palatability rankings were not consistent throughout the year but showed reasonable agreement between trial sites.

Table 1. Relative Palatability Ratings of Selected Cultivars of E. curvula

The palatable accession Consol is distinguishable from all known naturalized types of E. curvula in New South Wales. It was selected and recommended for registration to the State Herbage Plant Liaison Committee as being of particular value as a soil conservation and pastoral species. Accessions SCS 4660 and 4650 are also highly palatable but less distinguishable from naturalized types.

Consol is an erect winter dormant E. curvula. It is compatible with cool season annual species and is highly persistent. Although not the most productive accession it is likely to be particularly useful for spring sowing on lighter, wind erosion-prone soils. Further investigations with the cultivar are continuing.

1. Johnston, W.H. and Cregan, P.D. 1979. Proc. 7th Asian-Pacific Weed Sci. Soc. Conf. 161-164.

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