Sown pastures for the higher rainfall country of the Gympie region
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.
The high rainfall coastal zone extends north from the Sunshine Coast to Maryborough, including the grazing lands east of the Mary River and the upper Mary Valley. With average annual rainfall of 1100-1600 mm, this country 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 tropical legume-based pastures were extensively planted for dairy and beef production. Setaria and desmodium were two of the most commonly sown species.
Grazing land types have common soil, topography and vegetation characteristics, which describe a particular suite of land systems. These characteristics 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
|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), Premier digit grass (Digitaria milanjiana), paspalum (Paspalum dilatatum), signal grass (Urochloa decumbens)
|Lotononis (Lotononis bainseii), Shaw creeping vigna (Vigna parkerii), Villomix (Aeschynomene villosa), Maku lotus (Lotus uliginosus), Temprano or Nina common stylo (Stylosanthes guianensis), Seca or Siran shrubby stylo (Stylosanthes scabra), Wynn cassia (Chamaecrista rotundifolia), siratro (Macroptilium atropurpurem), serradella (Ornithopus compressus)
|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, Premier digit grass
|Lotononis, Villomix, Wynn cassia, fine stem stylo (Styloanthes guiensis var. intermedia), Seca stylo, Temprano or Nina common stylo
|Tall open forest on phyllites and volcanics
* Yellow and red clay loams
|Katambora Rhodes, green and Gatton panic (Panicum maximum), Bisset creeping bluegrass, Premier digit grass, pangola, paspalum
|Shaw creeping vigna, white clover (Trifolium repens), glycine (Neonotonia wightii), siratro, Temprano or Nina common stylo, Seca or Siran shrubby stylo
|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, green and Gatton panic, Bisset creeping bluegrass, Callide Rhodes
|Shaw creeping vigna, white clover, glycine, siratro, leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala), lucerne (Medicago sativa)
|Blue gums or flooded gums on stream alluviums
* Sandy loams to clay loams on floodplains and relict terraces
|Kikuyu, paspalum, Callide Rhodes
- 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.
Written by Adam Logan, formerly Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee, and Graeme Elphinstone, formerly Queensland Government.