Sown pastures for the higher rainfall country of the Gympie region

Adam Logan, formerly Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee
Graeme Elphinstone, formerly Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Adequately fertilised and well-managed sown pastures have the potential to at least double animal weight gains per head and stocking rates per hectare, compared to run-down naturalised and sown pastures. Once established, well-managed sown pastures should persist for more than 10 years.

Gympie region

The high rainfall coastal zone extends north from the Sunshine Coast to Maryborough and includes the grazing lands east of the Mary River and the upper Mary Valley. With average annual rainfall of 1,100 to 1,600mm, this country can present some unique challenges where animal production is more likely to be affected by waterlogged soils than by drought.

Native pastures in this area were originally dominated by kangaroo, forest blue and blady grasses, with the exception of the closed forests which generally lacked a significant grassy understorey. The hill country was cleared by axe and burnt and Rhodes grass seed was sown in the ashes, while the creek flats were planted to paspalum and white clover.

Over time, the condition of both native pastures and the early sown pastures declined due to a combination of heavy stocking rates, soil fertility decline and annual burning regimes. As a result many pastures became dominated by inferior grasses such as blady grass and matgrass and weeds such as bracken fern and groundsel bush.

In the 1960s and mid-70s under the Wallum Development Scheme and the Dairy Pasture Subsidy Scheme, tropical legume-based pastures were extensively planted for beef and dairy production. Setaria and desmodium were two of the most commonly sown species.

Recommended species

Grazing Land Type units have common soil, topography and vegetation characteristics which describe a particular suite of land systems, and which reflect the potential pasture productivity and possible land limitations of that unit. Pasture grasses and legumes suited to the five most common land types in the coastal Gympie region are listed below.

Most pasture seed mixes consist of one or two grass species with two to four legume species. When planning a pasture development program, starter and maintenance fertiliser applications to optimise productivity need to be budgeted in. Obtain expert advice before commencing pasture development.

Grazing Land Type Grasses Legumes
Coastal lowlands and plains on sandstones

  • Leached sands
  • Sandy loams over yellow clay sub-soils
Pangola (Digitaria eriantha), Katambora Rhodes (Chloris gayana), setaria (Setaria sphacelata), Bisset creeping bluegrass (Bothriochloa insculpta) Lotononis (Lotononis bainesii), Shaw creeping vigna (Vigna parkerii), Villomix (Aeschynomene villosa), Maku lotus (Lotus uliginosus)
Open forest on sandstones, shales and granites

  • Shallow gravely loams
  • Hard-setting sandy loams and loams over red and yellow clay sub-soils
Pangola, Katambora Rhodes, setaria, Bisset creeping bluegrass Lotononis, Villomix, Wynn cassia (Chamaecrista rotundifolia), fine stem stylo (Stylosanthes hippocampoides), Seca stylo (S. scabra)
Tall open forest on phyllites and volcanics

  • Yellow and red clay loams
Katambora Rhodes, green and Gatton panic (Panicum maximum), Bisset creeping bluegrass Shaw creeping vigna, white clover (Trifolium repens), glycine (Neonotonia wightii), Siratro (Macroptilium atropurpureum)
Rainforest and vine scrub on volcanic rocks and phyllites

  • Deep red friable clays
  • Brown clay loams
  • Deep loams over structured sub-soils
Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum), paspalum (Paspalum dilatatum), green and Gatton panic, Bisset creeping bluegrass, Callide Rhodes Shaw creeping vigna, white clover, glycine, Siratro
Blue gums or flooded gums on stream alluviums

  • Sandy loams to clay loams on floodplains and relict terraces
Kikuyu, paspalum, Callide Rhodes white clover

 

Notes

  • Pangola grass can only be planted vegetatively i.e. by runners
  • Seed of lotononis, Shaw creeping vigna and Maku lotus is not currently available
  • Wynn cassia is a heavy seeding legume; the maximum recommended sowing rate is 0. 5kg/ha
  • Other specialist pasture species e.g. Pinto peanut may also have a role in sown pastures
  • The above recommendations are generally for cattle pastures. Pasture seed mixtures for horses may need to be modified to avoid potentially high oxalate content grasses, for example setaria