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Published: 16 Dec 2020

Milton legume trial

A Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) legume trial will provide valuable insights for farmers to help improve their pasture resilience, even during drought.

In early December, NRM South’s Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator, in collaboration with TIA and the East Coast Primary Producers Association, held a successful Legume Management for East Coast Grazing Systems field day at Milton that showcased the perennial legume trial.

The field day provided updates about the trial onsite and presented some useful tips on managing lucerne to farmers, agronomists, researchers, and local experts in attendance.

The trial has been running at the site since 2017, testing legume varieties that can persist in dryland pastures on the East Coast.

The aim of the trial is to improve pasture resilience by boosting dry matter production through an increase in perennial species (legumes) in the pasture which improves ground cover, resulting in a lower risk of erosion, improved soil health, and a reduction weed incursions.

The trial is demonstrating the benefits of legumes for stock and pasture and the challenges of getting legumes to persist in dryland pastures over the long term.

TIA Research Fellow and trial manager, Dr Rowan Smith, said some of the commercially available legumes in the trial look promising and have persisted despite the tough drought conditions over the last three years.

“From the November 2019 sowing, the three lucerne cultivars and two red clover cultivars have performed well. These have continued to maintain green foliage later into the season compared with that of the volunteer sub clover and sown white clover, which have dried off. The lucerne cultivars in particular have regrown significantly following a simulated grazing in November,” he said.

Lucerne expert, David Squib from Wrightsons seeds, spoke at the field day about the importance of understanding different lucerne varieties and how plant persistence relates to its activity scale; a ranking given to all lucerne varieties based on winter activity. He said if managed well, the right varieties could persist for up to 10 years.

Veterinary consultant, Bruce Jackson, also spoke and shared insights on managing sheep health particularly while grazing them on lucerne to maximise stock health.

Work on the trial continues, with one plot being re-sown in Autumn after poor growth.

Learnings from the trial will continue to be shared with farmers in the coming months through NRM South's Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator.

This initiative is supported by NRM South, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Tasmanian Government's core support for Natural Resource Management, and TIA.

TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania & the Tasmanian Government.