Like many other farmers, Frank Varone needs to control cereal rye grass in his cropping program, but needed to find an alternative grazing for his stock. “The majority of ryegrass has been sprayed out, which means in a grazing year there is a lot less food for the sheep,” said Frank. “We wanted to trial different clovers that would grow on heavier soil types, where we didn’t have any.”
In conjunction with Wheatbelt NRM, Frank investigated four different types of legume pastures. No part of the trial site was grazed until pasture has set seed. It was then grazed heavily at 5 lambs/ha for one month after which the sheep were removed to prevent overgrazing and subsequent erosion. Biomass and seed production was monitored throughout the project period.
Frank intends to do a year in, year out rotation of the demonstration paddocks. The site will be left out of cropping in 2018 and will be carefully managed for grazing. Frank hopes to be able to build up the seed bank so legumes can persist in the years to come. For Frank the most important part of the project is to see which species persist in the heavy clay soils long term to provide a good food source for sheep and help improve the soil through nitrogen fixation. “Working with Wheatbelt NRM gave me the funding to assist with the purchase of the seed and put me in touch with experts on what species would grow in this area. I would still like to trial the bladder clover as it was highly recommended by DPIRD but at the time it wasn’t available.”