Improving productivity of rundown sown grass pastures

The decline in sown grass pastures in northern Australia is widespread and there will be significant returns from effectively reducing the impact of this decline.

The Improving productivity of rundown sown grass pastures project was funded by the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Meat & Livestock Australia and was completed in 2016.

The project aimed to address this problem by implementing recommendations from the Review of productivity decline in sown grass pasture project.

Key findings:

  • ‘Rundown’ in grass-only pastures can reduce production by approximately 50%, and at the time was estimated to cost beef producers in northern Australia more than $17 billion over the next 30 years. See Volume 1 (PDF, 798 KB), Section 1, page 11.
  • The project engaged with graziers to assist in understanding the costs, causes and management options available.
    • Learning-based workshops engaged with 418 graziers (see Volume 2 (PDF, 877 KB), Sections 1 and 2), and
    • 157 on-farm trials set up to test some of the management options to improve productivity. See Volume 2 (PDF, 877 KB), Section 2, pages 20–25.
  • 44 old legume trial sites were re-visited to measure persistence since sowing,
    • Caatinga stylo and desmanthus were the most persistent on clay soils in southern and central Queensland. See Volume 3 (PDF, 5 MB), Section 2, pages 16–36.
  • Grazing trials conducted on legume-grass pastures show that having a legume in the pastures can improve long-term productivity.
    • Desmanthus and Caatinga stylo improved liveweight gain per hectare productivity by 40–100%, compared to grass only pastures. See Volume 3 (PDF, 5 MB), Section 5, pages 44–72.
  • Research trials testing different legume establishment methods showed that using good agronomic practices dramatically improves the chance of successfully establishing small-seeded legumes into existing competitive grass pastures.
    • Legume seedlings need access to soil moisture and nutrients and using a moisture storing fallow can dramatically improve the chance of good establishment. See Volume 4 (PDF, 2 MB), Section 4, pages 25–64.

For more information, check out the project final report. The report is available as 4 volumes, described below. Volume 1 includes a summary of the whole project and outcomes.

Volume 1: Project overview, key findings and recommendations (PDF, 798 KB)
Volume 2: Improving understanding and testing mitigation options with industry (PDF, 877 KB)
Volume 3: Persistence and comparative productivity of legumes in sown grass pastures (PDF, 5 MB)
Volume 4: Improving reliability of establishing legumes into existing grass pastures (PDF, 2 MB)

When: 1 July 2011 to 30 November 2016

Project leader: Gavin Peck, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Queensland)