Water Week

EWN Publishing

Tropical feed-grasses outperform other forage crops: more forage, less soil erosion

Posted by waterweek on 4 October 2007

Tropical grasses were almost certain to play an increased role in grazing systems, reported The Land (26/7/2007, p.15). Growth response to rain: Now, research near Tamworth shows they can also outperform other forage crops, especially in difficult conditions. Despite an extremely dry start to the 2006-07 summer, good falls occurred in late February and early March, lifting the total to 364 millimetres over the eight month growing period compared to the long-term average of 479mm. The tropical grasses showed an excellent growth response to the late season rain, with Premier digit grass producing 16.1 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) of dry matter, Katambora Rhodes 11.4t/ha, and Swarm forest bluegrass 6.8t/ha. Forage sorghum produced 12.89t/ha.

Reducing soil erosion: The early performing tropical grasses started to produce strong growth by late September and by early December growth rates were as high as 140kg DM/ha per day for the Premier digit. By comparison forage sorghum crop achieved just 18kg DM/ha per day in early December but at that time it was still too young to graze. Expressed as dry matter, Premier digit produced 50 per cent more forage than sorghum for the season. The tropical grasses, however, have maintained groundcover levels above 80 per cent, substantially reducing the risk of soil erosion.

More forage, too: In addition, they can produce large quantities of forage, at very efficient rates, which can be used at the time of growth or later in the season as bulk to fill the autumn feed gap. Separate research will determine the optimal rates of nitrogen fertiliser required to increase forage quality and quantity so producers will have a better guide to match stock numbers with pasture growth rates.

Contact: Lester McCormick, Technical Specialist Pastures, NSW DPI, Tamworth, 0427 401542.

The Land, 26/7/2007, p. 15

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