Wheatbelt

Tedera as a summer grazing option in the Facey Grower Group (Wickepin) region

This trial is now complete

Key Messages

  • Research suggests that Tedera has high potential as a feed gap solution in low rainfall areas.
  • High plant mortalities occurred in this demonstration when exposed to winter frosts; that are common to the Wickepin area.
  • Trial Rationale
  • Steps Taken
  • Lessons Learnt
  • Looking Forward

Trial Rationale

This demonstration was instigated by the Facey Group after farmer members expressed a need to fill the autumn feed gap for sheep grazing. The majority of industry standard grazing pastures are more suited to higher rainfall zones, which leaves many Wheatbelt farmers with few feasible options.

Following promising results in a current Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) trial, the Facey Group decided to try Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) as an alternative to fill the summer feed gap for livestock.

Tedera is a Spanish perennial forage legume, relatively new to WA and not commonly used in the Wickepin region. Extensive field trials during 2005-2008 identified Tedera as one of the most productive and persistent species in southern Australia, mainly due to its retention of green leaves and drought tolerance compared with the industry standard perennial legume, Lucerne (Mayfield 2011).

Key advantages of Tedera identified in other trials include:

  • Drought tolerant to average annual rainfall of 150 mm;
  • Tolerant of many soils types and a wide range of pH levels;
  • Significant weight gain in sheep on Tedera, up to twice that of Lucerne; and
  • Tolerant of many common insect pests in the Wheatbelt.

Weakness of the legume are that it does not cope well with competition from weeds requiring herbicide application. It also exhibits low tolerance to salinity and aluminium toxicity, both common constraints in Wheatbelt soils.

The Facey Group wanted to see how Tedera performed in Wickepin but also wanted to compare the production benefits between Tedera and other commonly used grazing options (Balansa Clover, Maximus Ryegrass & Margurita Serradella). The group wanted to see if Tedera could perform better than what is typically grown by mixed farmers in Wickepin under the same conditions.

Steps Taken

The demonstration was installed on Gary Lang’s property, a long-time member of the Facey Group. The demonstration layout included replicates of 2 m x 10 m plots in a block grid pattern alternating the four pastures.

Soil samples taken indicated low pH, sufficient nitrogen, low phosphorous, low sulphur, sufficient potassium and sufficient copper and zinc (trace elements). The low pH reading of 4.4 was not expected to compromise the Tedera due to its capacity to tolerate a wide range of pH levels.

The site was pegged and seeded in April 2016. Germination counts were taken in May with the Tedera performing well, showing a plant establishment percentage of 47%.

Winter and spring in 2016 was colder than normal with September having the coldest average minimum temperatures on record across much of the Wheatbelt (GIWA 2016).

A period of subsequent frost events from June to November burnt the Tedera seedlings resulting in a 60% mortality rate with an average of 14.3 plants/m2 remaining alive by the middle of November.

Continuing frost damage significantly affected the growth rates of remaining Tedera and they did not produce biomass sufficient to cover any of the plots during 2017.

The clover, ryegrass and serradella also suffered high plant mortality and poor seed set from the severe frosts in 2016. Though the annual species recovery was not great in 2017, it was significantly better than the Tedera.

Lessons Learnt

As Tedera is such a new and largely untried pasture species in Australia, it was not previously understood that the legume cannot tolerate persistent frost events. While the 2016 season in Wickepin was severely frost affected, the seedling mortality rates experienced indicate that it is not suited to frost affected areas.

This demonstration is significant for future research and trialling of Tedera.

Looking Forward

Mixed farmers in the southern Wheatbelt around Wickepin are unlikely to try Tedera in their system as a result of Mr Lang’s experience, but Tedera might see success in northern and coastal growing regions which are less prone to frost. “We will stay with our current pasture species and will not grow the current variety of Tedera again. There is a possibility of replicating the demonstration in the Facey Group region but only if a more tolerant line can be produced,” Gary said.

While Gary was disappointed in Tedera’s performance on his property, he does think the demonstration was worthwhile because not many people knew Tedera was susceptible to frost before now. “We wouldn’t have done anything differently, the demonstration put the Tedera through its paces and we learnt that it just isn’t suitable for this region.”

Wickepin

Project Snapshot

Land Manager
Gary Lang
Shire:
Wickepin
NRM Region:
Wheatbelt
Property Size
4400 ha
Average Rainfall:
Medium - 325-450mm
Enterprise Mix:
Mixed crops and sheep
System Constraints:
Compaction, Dryland Salinity, Low nutrients, Low soil carbon, Soil Acidity, Water Erosion, Wind Erosion
Partners:
Facey Growers Group, Wheatbelt NRM
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