Grazing Project To Restore Woodland Pasture

AUSTRALIA - An on-property grazing research project will develop practical management guidelines for wet season spelling to restore productivity of poor condition native pastures in Queensland’s extensive poplar box and ironbark woodlands.
calendar icon 29 November 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Agri-Science Queensland senior grazing lands scientist at Emerald Paul Jones will lead the five year project to target the recovery of land that is rated as poor or C-condition.

Funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), the "Spelling strategies for the recovery of pasture condition" project will fill a knowledge gap for implementing cost-effective and practical regimes for wet season spelling.

Mr Jones said C-condition land showed a general decline in palatable, productive, perennial grasses with an increase in less favoured species often coupled with significant areas of bare ground.

"C-condition land is highly susceptible to erosion with a thickening of woody weeds, and carrying capacity can be reduced by close to 50 per cent," Mr Jones said.

"The extent of C-condition land across Queensland’s major woodland land types is quite low but the relative occurrence is quite noticeable - a trend repeated in the Northern Territory and in the north of Western Australia.

"Our research begins this summer season with fenced off exclosures now in place on an extensive commercial cattle grazing property north-west of Clermont.

"Treatments will be compared with moderate grazing pressure and include an early wet season spelling for eight weeks following the first rainfall event of more than 50 mm over two days.

"There will also be a full wet season spelling conducted from the same starting date through to the end of May. These treatments will be conducted annually and biennially.

"To assess the effect of seasons, full wet season spelling will also be conducted in separate plots for each year of the trial."

Mr Jones said the spelling treatments would be conducted from November this year through to May 2015 with paddock recordings taken in September, February and May.

Measurements will be taken on pasture yield and composition; ground cover, perennial grass basal area, density and size; landscape functionality; land condition; number of inflorescences, perennial grass demography; and soil seed banks.

Mr Jones said a secondary site would be established in the second year of the project at the Wambiana grazing trial site at Charters Towers.

Similar treatments will be conducted in C-land condition areas in the high and moderate stocking rate treatments.

"Because the current ecological understanding of the recovery path for C-condition land is inadequate, there is a lack of detail on the required spelling regime and interaction with stocking rates," Mr Jones said.

"We need to know what frequency of spelling is needed and the duration of spelling for land to recover," he said.

"This project will also assess the influences of seasonal conditions and how the spelling treatments interact to increase our understanding of pasture and soil responses.

"By modelling pasture and soil responses to wet season spelling based on the information generated, the data can be used to calculate economic performance from different regimes of pasture spelling," Mr Jones said.

A technical committee has been established and Mr Jones will be consulting with field staff and graziers to ensure delivery of relevant wet season spelling recommendations for the major land types in northern, central and southern Queensland.

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