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An evaluation of two new vetch cultivars in the Wimmera region of Victoria

Justin Elliott1, 2, Bradley Jackson1, Joanna McKerrow1, Ashley Summerhayes1 and Nick Wachsmann1

1 Longerenong College, 229 Longerenong Rd, Longerenong, Victoria, 3401, Email

2 Email


A field experiment was undertaken in the Victorian Wimmera in 2007 to compare the growth of two new vetch (Vicia spp.) cultivars with four existing cultivars grown in the region. The new cultivars were Villotas (V. villosa) and Sinotas (V. sativa) and the existing cultivars tested were Popany (V. benghalensis), Morava, Blanchefleur and Rasina (all V. sativa). Establishment and early vigour was assessed and dry matter harvests were conducted at 128 days after sowing (DAS) and 150 DAS. The cultivar Villotas is a much later maturing than the other vetches tested, showing significantly reduced early vigour and growth, yet significantly better late dry matter production. Total growth for both harvests was similar for all cultivars sown in this experiment (mean = 4 t DM/ha). The more prostrate growth habit of Villotas may make it more resilient to grazing than other vetch cultivars and its late maturity could be beneficial in extending the period of green feed availability later into spring, as well as facilitating the spread of hay or silage making workloads over a longer period of time.

Key Words

Vicia spp., Villotas, Sinotas, biomass, early vigour, maturity


Vetch (Vicia spp.) is a versatile legume that can produce quality feed over a range of growing conditions in the cereal growing regions of southern Australia. It can be included in cropping rotations to disrupt the life cycle of cereal root pathogens and fix nitrogen, whilst giving managers the option of grazing the feed produced, cutting hay or silage, harvesting seed or green manuring paddocks. A number of vetch cultivars are available and these differ in their adaptation to different environments, end use, disease resistance, palatability, seed hardness and toxicity of seed to livestock (CMN 2006; Saunders 2006). Some cultivars such as Popany (V. benghalensis) are relatively old and whilst some newer cultivars such as Morava (V. sativa) have performed well in trials in South Australia (Planttech 2006), limited data indicates that is not necessarily the case in Victoria (Bell 2000). Other cultivars currently grown in the cropping zones of southern Australia include Rasina and Blanchefleur, which are both V. sativa types. Two new cultivars named Villotas (V. villosa) and Sinotas (V. sativa) are being developed by Tas Global Seeds in Tasmania and it is expected that they will be available for commercial sale in 2009 (R. Reid, pers. comm. March 2007). An experiment was undertaken to compare the growth of the two new cultivars from Tasmania with the four existing cultivars named above in the Wimmera region of Victoria.


The experiment was conducted at Longerenong (36.7 S, 142.3 E), near Horsham on a deep, cracking clay soil (Vertosol) with a topsoil (0 – 15 cm) pH(CaCl2) of 7.5. Long term average annual rainfall is 420 mm. The previously fallowed site was prepared using glyphosate and cultivation with tyned implements. A randomised block design was employed with four replicates. Plot size was 5 m by 2 m with a row spacing of 22 cm. The pre-emergent herbicides diuron and trifluralin were applied at label rates before sowing and incorporated by the sowing operation. Sowing rates were adjusted for seed weight and germination to give a target population of 95 plants/m (~60 kg/ha). Legume inoculant (Group E) was applied to seed. The seeding operation was completed on the 5th June 2007 and the sowing depth was 2.5 cm. Mono-ammonium phosphate was drilled with seed at 50 kg/ha. A label rate of omethoate was applied shortly after emergence as a precaution against red-legged earth mites (Halotydeus destructor). Weeds were removed manually as required. Plant establishment and early vigour were assessed on the 4th July, with plots given a visual score in the range 1 to 9 (1 = poorest and 9 = best). Biomass (dry matter = DM) was measured 128 days after sowing (DAS) when most cultivars were flowering by cutting two 0.25 m quadrat samples from each plot to a grazing height of 3 cm. After sampling, the whole experiment was mown to the same height and the samples were dried at 70oC to constant mass (~24 hours) and weighed. Regrowth was assessed 150 DAS using the same procedure. All data were analysed with ANOVA using Genstat 7.2.


The growing season (April to October) rainfall of 206 mm was below average, compared to the long term mean of 290 mm for this period. Rainfall between sowing and the first harvest was only 75 mm and an additional 15 mm fell between 128 and 150 DAS. Plant establishment was satisfactory and no significant evidence of disease was observed. Compared to the other cultivars tested, the early vigour of Popany and Villotas was significantly lower (Table 1). At 128 DAS all cultivars had reached anthesis, except Villotas, a far more prostrate type, which had produced significantly less dry matter than most other cultivars.

Table 1. Early vigour and growth of two new and four existing vetch cultivars in the Victorian Wimmera.


Early vigour rating
(1 = poor, 9 = excellent)

Biomass 128 DAS
(t DM/ha)

Biomass 128 to 150 DAS (t DM/ha)

Biomass total
(t DM/ha)































LSD (P=0.05)





Means with the same superscript are not significantly different at P=0.05; ***P<.0001, *P<0.05, n.s. = not significant.

When regrowth was assessed 150 DAS, Villotas was flowering and had produced an additional 2 t DM/ha, compared to less than 0.7 t/ha for the other cultivars tested (Table 1). This additional growth is attributed to the later maturity of Villotas which may have allowed better utilisation of the 15 mm of rain which fell between 128 and 150 DAS. More stored soil water may also have been available to this cultivar during this period due to conservative growth during winter and early spring.


This experiment showed the growth habit and phenology of Villotas to differ from the other cultivars tested. Whilst Villotas had poor winter growth and flowered three weeks later, regrowth after mowing in spring was significantly improved over the other cultivars tested. Villotas may have a niche role in the Wimmera and other regions by having good late spring herbage production with potential livestock management and marketing benefits, as well as spreading hay or silage making workloads over a longer period of time. The latter could be particularly useful in dry years such as 2007 where conditions forced many growers in the Wimmera and Mallee regions of Victoria to cut cereal and other crops for hay, placing a high demand on forage conservation machinery. Villotas also has the potential to better utilise mid or late spring rainfall than earlier maturing vetch cultivars. Further research is required to test this potential niche and determine how the cultivar is best managed in commercial situations.

Issues regarding the poor early vigour of Villotas include weed management during winter and grazing strategies. Spring sowing may be another option warranting investigation. Additionally, the conservative early growth and late maturity of Villotas may make it suitable for sowing under early maturing crops to increase the feed value of grazed stubbles after harvest.

This experiment also showed that Sinotas can produce a similar amount of winter/early spring growth to other vetch cultivars currently grown in southern Australia. The addition of another cultivar to the market will increase competition between seed companies and this may have a positive impact on the price of seed, at least from the viewpoint of growers. Further testing over a range of growing conditions is required and this may show other opportunities for this new cultivar, possibly in terms of adaptation, disease resistance or feed quality.


For their valuable contributions to this work, the authors would like to thank Bob Reid (Tas Global Seeds), Lachlin Broad (Planttech), Rob Christie (Incitec Pivot), Peter Howie (Incitec Pivot) and Chris Smith (Longerenong College).


Bell C (2000). Advanced vetch variety evaluation. In, Birchip Cropping Group Trial Results 2000. Birchip Cropping Group, Birchip, Victoria.

CMN (2006). Crop Management Notes Victoria and South Australia. Victorian Department of Primary Industries; Rural Solutions South Australia, (CD ROM).

Planttech Pty Ltd (2006). Forage Field Facts, for the cultivars Rasina and Morava.

Saunders R (2006). Vetch variety sowing guide 2006. Factsheet FS80/01/06. South Australian Research and Development Institute, Loxton, South Australia.

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