Summer-active perennials in pasture systems improve seasonal pasture distribution without compromising winter-spring production

Improved dryland pastures for sheep and beef cattle production in south-western Victoria are typically based on summer-dormant cultivars of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) or phalaris (Phalaris aquatica L.). These are highly productive in spring but exhibit low accumulation rates over summer–autumn. Summer-active perennial pasture species could potentially alleviate this summer–autumn feed gap.

Three pasture systems that used different pastures on each of the three landscape classes (crest, slope, and valley floor) were compared over 4 years. The perennial ryegrass system (henceforth Ryegrass) had a different ryegrass cultivar on each landscape class. The Triple system used lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) (crest), perennial ryegrass (slope), and summer-active tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb) Darbysh.) (valley floor). The Novel system used chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) (crest), Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) or hybrid ryegrass (L. × boucheanum Kunth.) (slope), and kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum Hochst. ex Chiov.) (valley floor). The pastures were grazed by either one (in the case of the Novel system) or three (in the case of the Ryegrass and Triple systems) animal systems that varied over the life of the experiment.

The results support the hypothesis that incorporating deep-rooted, summer-active perennial species will increase pasture production over summer–autumn compared with conventional pasture systems but not at the expense of winter–spring production.


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