Strzelecki Sustainable and Productive Pastures

Year of study:

2003-11

Lead organisation & collaborators:

Hallston Landcare Group

South Gippsland Landcare Network, Woolworths

Contact:

Malcolm J. Cock

T: (03) 5668 5166

Best available science assessment:

Overall score: 23

Overall rating: High

Objectives

Conceptual model

Study design

Soil analysis

Production & financial

Method reporting

Data analysis

Results reporting

Publication

3

3

2

3

2

3

2

3

2

Project details

Objectives:

The project sought to assess methods for replacing current drought affected pasture species with productive species that lead to better production outcomes and reduced environmental impacts. The project responded to the need to restore groundcover on north facing pasture land in the Strzelecki Ranges, following losses during the droughts of the 2000s.

Hypotheses:

Established pasture and ground cover improves soil health, binds soil to combat erosion and improves rainfall utilisation across the pasture.

Basis of trial:

Replace current drought affected pasture species and introduce productive species that will:

withstand future dry periods and higher temperatures on north facing slopes.

  • Improve rainfall utilisation.
  • Improve soil health through better ground cover.
  • Bind soil through better root development, combating wind and water erosion

Location details

Management practices tested:

Pasture establishment (sowing and fertiliser use)

Trial site details:

Hallston

1020.3mm/a average rainfall (Mirboo North BoM station)

2.6 hectares

Northern slopes of the Strzelecki Ranges

Early April 2008- Late March 2009

Pre-trial management:

Rotational grazing

Trial management:

Some farmers are changing their practices, while others are still thinking about how it will work for them. Next trial would incorporate a pre and post survey to capture these changes.

Summary of key findings of trial

Where cocksfoot is established successfully, its dry matter production was superior to the other grasses and it was much quicker response to summer /autumn rains.

Important to get soils “right” before sowing – which requires research and trialling

Disturb the soil as little as necessary to lessen, soil erosion (wind & rain) and damage to the soil structure.

Plan: WWW: What’s wanted – What is – What could be. Keep it simple!

Need to find the best farming practices to suit each part of the farm, especially in Strzelecki hill country. This means accounting for: soil type, topography, aspect, drainage, stock type, rainfall.

The economic benefits where shown by increased dry matter production and consumption in the areas of good cocksfoot establishment. Hay was normally fed at this time of year but because of the increased feed availability from the new pasture species there was no need. Financial benefit cannot be assessed reliably because of (i) poor establishment (ii) too short a trial period.

There were no short term environmental benefits, but where the cocksfoot established, the medium to long term benefits were shown to be:

  • Shading of the soil: reducing soil temperature, less evaporation / better seedling growth.
  • A vigorous root system giving better moisture utilisation, soil holding capabilities and humus production.

Results:

Variation in soil C with time and management influence:

 

Organic carbon increased over time (between 2003 and 2011 soil tests).

The following table outlines the raw soils data obtained on the trial site between 2003 and 2011.

TEST

2003

2011

pH(1:5 Water)

5.4

6.3

pH(1:5 0.01M CaCl2)

4.8

5.7

Electrical Conductivity EC µS/cm

106

76

TOTAL SOLUBLE SALT TSS ppm

349.8

250.8

AVAILABLE CALCIUM Ca ppm

796

1274

AVAILABLE MAGNESIUM Mg ppm

184.8

206.4

AVAILABLE SODIUM Na ppm

112.7

112.7

AVAILABLE NITROGEN N ppm

14.3

11.1

AVAILABLE PHOSPHORUS P ppm

16.3

8.2

AVAILABLE POTASSIUM K ppm

202.8

175.5

AVAILABLE SULPHUR S ppm

4.8

3.3

AVAILABLE COPPER Cu ppm

4.5

5.1

AVAILABLE ZINC Zn ppm

0.7

1.4

AVAILABLE IRON Fe ppm

90

81

AVAILABLE MANGANESE Mn ppm

13

20

AVAILABLE COBALT Co ppm

0.2

0.1

AVAILABLE MOLYBDENUM Mo ppm

0.3

0.3

AVAILABLE BORON B ppm

0.3

0.3

TOTAL ORGANIC MATTER OM %

12.6

14.9

TOTAL ORGANIC CARBON OC %

6.3

7.5

TOTAL PHOSPHORUS TP ppm

809

756

 

Variation in soil pH with time and management influence:

pH increased over time (between 2003 and 2011 soil tests)

(see above)

Other soil treatments:

See above table

Variations in productivity/profitability with time & management influence:

Pasture compositions were measured and captured as followrs:

Experimental design

Treatments:

Roundup application

Fertiliser application

 

Trial design/layout:

2 paddocks of similar soil types and topography (paddocks W 1 & W 2).

Paddock W1: – April 2008

  • smooth out any rough areas and rip rabbit warrens.
  • spray with Roundup and broadcast seed and fertiliser.
  • Pasture species to be sown : Cocksfoot, Phalaris and small leafed clovers.

Paddock W2: – April 2008

  • smooth out any rough areas and rip rabbit warrens.
  • spray with Roundup and direct drill seed and fertiliser.
  • Pasture species to be sown : Cocksfoot, Phalaris and small leafed clovers.

2 neighbouring paddocks as control (paddocks E1 & E2).

All paddocks: – August 2008

  • Fertiliser application ( 3 & 1)
  • Spraying weeds if required.

Rotational grazing as required to promote establishment and tillering

 

Reportage

How results have been reported:

Landcare report

How a copy of any relevant reports can be obtained:

Malcolm J. Cock

Hallston Landcare Group

Soil sampling

Soil tests were taken in 2003 and 2011. A series of soils attributes were tested for including:

  • pH (H2O and CaCl2)
  • EC
  • TSS
  • Ca, Mg, Na, N, P, K, S, Cu, Zn, Fe, Mn, Co, Mo, B
  • Organic matter
  • Organic carbon
  • Testing was taken out at SWEP laboratories (NATA accredited)

 

Plant and/or animal production measurements:

Pasture composition

Volume of plants (air and direct)

 

Cost and value of production:

SGLN / HALLSTON SSPP TRIAL

ACTUAL COST

Paddock W1: (0.7 ha develop)
Soil test

 71.50

Spray out

38.50

Roundup / BS100 WA

30.80

Direct drill with ‘Baker boot’ drill

77.00

Pasture mix

84.70

Fertiliser

77.00

Paddock preparation Level / rip

165.00

Weed spraying

46.20

Paddock W2: (0.7 ha develop)  
Soil test

 71.50

Spray out

38.50

Roundup / BS100 WA

30.80

Broad casting seed & fertiliser

61.60

Pasture mix

84.70

Fertiliser

77.00

Paddock preparation Level /rip

165.00

Weed spraying

46.20

Next steps

The SSPP trial generated information which was a change from the local common practice of using Rye grasses for all areas of the farm. Cocksfoot is more suited the drier northern facing slopes than Rye grass. The trial also helped to reinforce better environmental and management principles.

Because of the difficulty of establishing desired species in the trial’s particular environment, the idea of rolling a round bale of hay (of the selected species) down the slopes was suggested, thus providing, seed, humus, and mulching. This is to be tried soon by locals as well as the trial site.

The trial site will be continuing but at this stage no further funding has been sought.