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Persistence of temperate perennial grasses, northwest slopes, NSW

K.A. Archer

NSW Agriculture and Fisheries, Agricultural Research Centre, RMB 944, Tamworth NSW, 2340

Temperate perennial grasses have not been widely used on the north-west slopes of NSW, even though these are the species of choice for the adjacent tableland areas. This has partly been due to perceptions that these grasses are not well adapted to the hotter summers and lower rainfall on the slopes. The extensive use of lucerne in rotation with cereal crops has also generally satisfied requirements for high quality pastures. Unfavourable wheat prices and degradation of soil fertility has now created a need for long-term pastures, particularly as an alternative to cereal cropping. In this paper, persistence data are presented on eleven temperate grass cultivars at 5 sites ranging in elevation from 350 to 650 metres.


At each site, eleven cultivars, representing four species (Sirolan, Sirosa, Australian, Maru and Seedmaster phalaris, Demeter and Epic fescue, Currie cocksfoot and Kangaroo Valley, Victorian and Ariki ryegrass), were established in 1983 in randomised complete blocks, each with 3 replications. Individual plot sizes were 5 x 3 m. Each site was grazed periodically at light to moderate grazing pressures. Persistence was determined by counting the number of squares (10 x 10 cm) in a 50 x 50 cm grid which contained at least a portion of the base of a grass plant. Frequency was determined as the percentage of 10 x 10 cm squares containing plants. Five grids/plot were counted at random each winter from 1984 to 1986, and again in winter, 1988.

Results and discussion

The average frequency of the phalaris cultivars over the five sites declined only marginally during the study, and this result was essentially superior to that of all other grass species (Fig. la). However, the fescues and Currie cocksfoot each retained a reasonable presence in the pasture at the completion of the study. In contrast, the frequencies of the ryegrasses declined rapidly. Ariki ryegrass was inferior to Kangaroo Valley and Victorian and is not included in Fig. la. The differences between cultivars within fescue and phalaris were relatively minor. However, Sirosa and Sirolan phalaris consistently maintained a slight advantage (Fig. lb), and declined by only about 6% compared to 13-16% for the other phalaris cultivars between 1984 and 1988.

Figure 1. Frequency (%) of grasses between 1984 and 1988, mean of 5 sites.

These results indicate that phalaris is highly persistent on the north-west slopes, and is possibly the only temperate perennial grass species suitable for use in long-term pastures in the region. The results also suggest that Sirosa and Sirolan should be regarded as the most suitable of the phalaris cultivars, particularly as these cultivars have superior seedling vigour.

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