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Production and persistence of a winter-active chicory cultivar in southern NSW

Richard Hayes, Brian Dear, Guangdi Li and Craig Lihou

E H Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University), Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, PMB, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650 NSW 2650. Email: richard.hayes@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009.

Abstract

The performance of 2 chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) cultivars that differed in their seasonal growth patterns were compared over 2 years in 3 field experiments sown at Barmedman, Wagga and Binalong in southern NSW. INIA LE Lacerta (Lacerta) is a cultivar from Uruguay that is highly winter active. Grasslands Puna (Puna) is a summer active cultivar from New Zealand and is the basis of many commercial chicory cultivars available in Australia today. Averaged across 3 environments, total herbage yield of Lacerta over 22 months was 50% higher than Puna. During winter months Lacerta produced almost twice as much above ground biomass as Puna reflecting its superior winter activity. Despite high densities (up to 450 plants/m2) at establishment, plant numbers of both cultivars declined sharply during the experimental period, with Puna proving to be a more persistent cultivar in all 3 environments.

Keywords

Chicory, persistence, production, winter activity, Puna, Lacerta

Introduction

Chicory has been identified as a pasture species with significant potential in the cropping zone of southern Australia. Being a summer active perennial herb, it presents as an attractive alternative to be grown in combination with lucerne or to replace it, particularly on acidic soils. However, low winter production and sensitivity to grazing in winter (Li and Kemp 2005) can discourage growers from including chicory in their rotation.

Most of the chicory cultivars currently available in Australia originate from New Zealand, and many of them are derived from the summer-active cultivar, Puna. However, there are cultivars such as Lacerta that have an increased level of winter activity. This study compares the performance of Lacerta to Puna in 3 NSW environments, to evaluate the potential of a winter-active cultivar in local farming systems.

Methods

Field trials were sown in 3 different wheatbelt environments; at Binalong (3433′52S, 14842′08E), Wagga (3502′57S, 14721′18E) and Barmedman (3409′20S, 14732′14E), with average annual rainfalls of 640mm, 530mm and 480mm, respectively. However, due to drought conditions, rainfall received during 2004 and 2005 at Wagga (400mm and 475mm), Barmedman (300mm and 450mm) and Binalong (520mm and 660mm) respectively was predominantly drier than average. Two chicory cultivars, Puna and Lacerta, were sown in alternate plots at each site in May 2004. Plot size was 2 х 21m with 10 replicates. Sowing rates were 6kg/ha for Puna and 12kg/ha for Lacerta. The latter was sown at double the rate based on a low germination percentage reported on the label. Seedling density was counted in July 2004, and then monitored during the life of experiment using a fixed 1m2 quadrat. Herbage production of each experiment was estimated seasonally by visual assessment at 6 locations within each plot, calibrated against 10 – 15 quadrats which were cut, dried and weighed. Autumn and winter production was combined given the very dry autumns experienced at all sites during the experimental period.

Results

Plant density of Lacerta was twice that of Puna at establishment, but both cultivars reduced to similar densities within about a year after sowing in all 3 environments (Fig. 1). The final plant densities of Puna in March 2006 were significantly higher (P<0.05) than Lacerta at Wagga (9 vs 6 plants/m2), Barmedman (7 vs 1 plants/m2) and Binalong (21 vs 17 plants/m2).

Figure 1. Plant density (plants/m2) of Puna and Lacerta chicory grown at Wagga, Barmedman and Binalong between 2004-06. Values at each date differ significantly (P<0.05) unless otherwise indicated (n.s.)

The seasonal growth patterns of the 2 chicory cultivars varied (Table 1) with Lacerta producing more biomass than Puna in autumn/winter and spring at Binalong and Barmedman. There was no difference in biomass production between the 2 cultivars in the first summer at either site. Drought prevented herbage yield measurements in summer at Wagga and Barmedman.

Table 1. Seasonal (spring, summer, autumn/winter) herbage production (kg/ha) of 2 chicory cultivars grown in 3 NSW wheatbelt environments. Values within a season at each site differ significantly (P<0.01) unless otherwise indicated (n.s.)

 

Spr 04

Sum 04/05

Aut/Win 05

Spr 05

Sum 05/06

Total

Wagga

Lacerta

2248

-

527n.s.

519n.s.

-

3294

Puna

1443

-

444n.s.

533n.s.

-

2420

Barmedman

Lacerta

1549

860n.s.

981

7580

-

10970

Puna

546

776n.s.

671

4074

-

6067

Binalong

Lacerta

8883

1038n.s.

1643

5772

3804

21140

Puna

6344

1057n.s.

496

4798

2345

15040

Discussion

Although the establishment year was drier than average, Binalong was shown to be a more favourable environment for chicory production and persistence than either of the lower rainfall environments. Total herbage production was consistently higher, and the rate of decline in plant density was much slower in both cultivars in the higher rainfall environment. Therefore, to achieve optimum potential from chicory swards in south-eastern Australian environments, a level of drought tolerance higher than is available in current commercial cultivars is required. This may be achieved through further breeding and selection of chicory cultivars (Dear et al. 2006).

The winter active cultivar Lacerta produced more biomass in the first 2 years than Puna in all 3 environments demonstrating its potential as a valuable forage crop in short-term rotations. However, the persistence of Lacerta over just a 2 year period was consistently poorer than that of Puna. Similar findings have been reported by Sanderson et al. (2003) in the north-east of the USA. We conclude that the benefits of winter-active chicory cultivars in terms of increased grazing potential during cooler months are not likely to improve the long term persistence of chicory in pasture swards in local wheatbelt environments.

References

Dear B, Li G, Hackney B, Hayes R (2006). New perennial pasture plant options for farming systems in southern NSW. Proceedings New South Wales GRDC Grains Research Update, 21-2 February, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, pp 113-6.

Li GD, Kemp PD (2005) Forage chicory (Cichorium intybus L.): A review of its agronomy and animal production. Advances in Agronomy 88, 187-222.

Sanderson MA, Labreveux M, Hall MA, Elwinger GF (2003). Forage yield and persistence of chicory and English plantain. Crop Science 43, 995-1000.

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