New cultivars of Phalaris, Tall Fescue and Cocksfoot are being developed for the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range (400-700 mm of average annual rainfall) where there are currently no satisfactory perennial grass options.
Persistent perennial grasses A Future Farm Industries CRC project developing perennial grass solutions for NSW and Victoria
Objective: Increased perennial grass content of grazing land on the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria and NSW to provide persistence production deep drainage erosion = ability to cope with climate change and variability The problem: The inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria and New South Wales have few perennial grass options and are often characterised by highly acidic soils with low fertility and high aluminium levels. Pastures in these areas are dominated by annual grasses and broadleaf weeds with low proportions of legumes. They are prone to wind erosion, allow high levels of soil water leakage and produce an unreliable feed supply. Perennial grasses are also needed to provide alternatives to Lucerne in phase farming systems.
Phase 1: Selection and breeding of new cultivars (completed): In the first phase of this work, spaced plant nurseries of Cocksfoot, Tall fescue and Phalaris accessions from Morocco, Tunisia, Portugal, Italy and Spain were established on marginal sites in Victoria and NSW. Over three years and through two summers, these plants were assessed for drought tolerance, persistence, vigour, nutritive value, flowering time, flowering intensity and diseases. Many plants died due to prolonged summer drought. The best survivors were selected and used to form four Cocksfoot, three Tall Fescue and five Phalaris synthetic cultivar candidates. Bealiba (Victoria) cocksfoot nursery Nov 2005, May 2006 and Nov 2006 Poor persistence of some cocksfoot lines at Bealiba through the 2005/06 summer
Persistence is considered at least as important as herbage production in these environments and the graph above shows how all the accessions and cultivars were distributed for these characteristics. Average yield (visual score) from November 2005 to October 2008 of all Tall Fescue accessions, experimental varieties and cultivars (●) plotted against persistence (number of plants survived) at October 2008 at Barraba. The cultivar Demeter is represented by ■ , winter active cultivars by ○, the Sardinian lines by and the best performing Mediterranean lines by . Cocksfoot and Tall Fescue candidate cultivars from the current breeding program and their characteristics. Species Synthetic Characteristics Orchardgrass Very fine leaf Bred from 1 Spanish and 3 Moroccan accessions. Highly persistent, with good production. Densely tillering. Fine leaf As above. Currie replacement The best plants from Currie, ‘Jana’ and ‘Medly’ which all performed well in the spaced plant nurseries. Persistent and productive at the higher rainfall range. Should be readily marketable. AVH 48 The best plants from a northern Portuguese accession. Persistent and vigorous. Has performed well in many previous evaluations. Tall Fescue Summer active #1 Based on a plants from a single Sardinian accession. Highly persistent and has high year-round production. Endophyte free. Summer active #2 As above but based on plants from three Sardinian accessions. Winter active Based on Moroccan germplasm. High winter production and drought tolerance. Not strictly summer dormant so will respond to summer rain. No endophyte.
Trungley Hall, 9 Oct 2009 Ariah Park, 28 Oct 2009 In this phase we are evaluating the new cultivars in larger plots and under more realistic conditions including regular grazing with sheep. The research sites are in NSW (Inverell, Trungley Hall, Beckom and Ariah Park), the ACT (Ginninderra) and Victoria (Bealiba and Eversley). At each site we have genetics x environment experiments with all the new candidates plus a large range of commercially available control cultivars. At Bealiba, Eversley and Inverell we also have smaller experiments with fewer controls which will be rotationally grazed. We will add other experiments at each site looking at companion legumes, sowing rates, summer dormancy screening and new accession screening Phase 2: Evaluation and commercial development of the new cultivars (underway):
Further information Project leader: Steve Clark, Department of Primary Industries, Hamilton, 3300 Phone (03) 5573 0900, email email@example.com Project team DPI Victoria: Dr. Zhongnan Nie, Bron Clark DII New South Wales: Carol Harris, Guangdi Li, Richard Hayes, Dr. Mark Norton CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra: Dr. Richard Culvenor The new project is funded by the Future Farm Industry CRC and our respective state and federal employers. Commercial partnerships Our seed company partners are Seedmark (for the Phalaris) and Heritage Seeds (cocksfoot and tall fescue) They are conducting their own independent experiments to help determine which of the candidates are commercially released.