Over 70 people attended the WA Pasture and Livestock Update held on the 5 October in partnership with Wheatbelt NRM, Evergreen and WA & Meat and Livestock Australia(MLA). The Trials and Demonstration project established trial paddocks of perennial pastures on two mixed farming properties that previously only used annual pastures for sheep production. The project is evaluating the success of pasture establishment and the benefits of maintaining active plant production throughout the year to build soil carbon, biological activity and improve soil health.
The UWA Future Farm site in Pingelly is 36.49 hectares, with a duplex soil of loamy gravel over clay. The site was sewn with a mixture of Pharlaris, tall wheat grass, Vedlt grass with Subterranean and Balansa clover. The more degraded section of the paddock was planted with Anameka saltbush and mixed eucalyptus species, as the area is prone to waterlogging and salinisation.
The Southern Brook site on the Dempster property is 7.79 hectares of deep pale sands that was previously clayed. Gatton Panic and Katambora Rhodes grass was sewn at an 80:20 ratio.
Preliminary results from both sites show good establishment overall. The UWA site in particular is proving to be an excellent feed source for sheep during the dryer months. The success of this trial has led to the farm manager planning to allocate more paddocks into permanent perennial pastures. The main issue with the Southern Brook site is weeds, specifically lovegrass. The owner is now trialling new weed control options to control the lovegrass without affecting the Panic and Rhodes grasses.
Soil testing is not complete, but current observations are that there has been an improvement in soil carbon, biological activity and general soil health.
The participants on the day were impressed with the establishment of the perennial pastures and several farmers enquired about having similar projects trialled on their properties.