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Management for pasture establishment

W.D. Bellotti A.D. Moore

Department of Agriculture, Turretfield Research Centre, Rosedale, SA 5350
CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, c/- Department of Agriculture,
Northfield Research Laboratories, GPO Box 1671, Adelaide, SA 5001


This paper focuses on pre- and post-sowing management options which influence survival of emerged seedlings. Factors affecting germination and emergence normally associated with the seeding operation will receive less attention. Emphasis is placed on the influence of climate, the role of grazing, and measures which affect pest and weed populations.

It is argued that ecological principles taken from plant population biology provide the scientific basis for studying the process of pasture establishment. In particular the concepts of the regeneration niche, disturbance and interference are discussed in the context of pasture establishment. A working definition of the term 'establishment' is developed from a consideration of population dynamics of sown pasture plants.

A comparison of rainfall regimes using examples from the rangelands, cereal/livestock zone and permanent pasture zone illustrates the overriding influence of rainfall patterns on growth and survival of emerged seedlings. This analysis is developed to outline broad strategies needed to successfully establish pastures in each zone.

The following research and development needs are be detailed:

Collation of existing knowledge and presentation of this knowledge in a form useful for on-farm decision making;

On-farm validation of experimental results, or putting principles into practice; Comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for pasture sowing, to justify its high cost. Such analysis must include both direct and indirect benefits; take account of the risks of failure; and take a medium-term view to cover the productive lifetime of the pasture;

Bioclimatic analyses to identify optimal times for sowing and periods when the probability of seedling mortality is minimised;

Decision support systems to assist managers minimise the risk of establishment failure. Such systems aim to identify the best tactical decision given prevailing circumstances;

Technical limitations and problems which are often region-specific.

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