Dryland Legume Pasture Systems – Boosting profit and reducing risk in medium and low rainfall areas

Dryland Legume Pasture Systems – Boosting profit and reducing risk in medium and low rainfall areas

Project Manager
Naomi Scholz
Funding Source
Australian Government Rural R&D for Profit
Start Date
July 2018
Finish Date
June 2022


Over the past three decades there has been a shift from integrated crop-livestock production to intensive cropping in dry areas which has significantly reduced the resilience of farms. Intensive cropping is prone to herbicide resistant weeds, large nitrogen fertiliser requirements, and major financial shocks due to frost, drought or low grain prices. A pilot project with MLA and AWI in WA and southern NSW has demonstrated how novel pasture legumes such as serradella, biserulla and bladder clover can improve livestock production while reducing nitrogen requirements, weeds and diseases for following crops.

This new project will develop recently discovered pasture legumes together with innovative management techniques that benefit animal and crop production and farm logistics, and promote their adoption on mixed farms over one million hectares in the low and medium rainfall areas of WA, SA, Victoria and southern NSW. The project is also aiming to halve financial risk.

There are five integrated programs of work:

  • Well adapted to major soils in dry regions; fix abundant nitrogen; produce quality stockfeed to fill gaps.
  • Harvestable with conventional machinery to minimise seed costs.
  • Of suitable seed dormancy to enable summer sowing or natural regeneration after crops.
  • Tolerate cropping herbicides, legume diseases and pests.

Project steering committee:

John Bennett (farmer), Andy Duncan (farmer), David Vandenberghe (farmer), Ed Hunt (farmer), Stephen Loss (GRDC), Julia Easton (GRDC), Melissa McAulay (AWI), Doug McNicholl (MLA), John Howieson (Murdoch University), Ron Yates (DPIRD), Ross Ballard (SARDI)

Project partners:

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation. The research partners include the South Australian Research and Development Institute, Murdoch University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and Charles Sturt University, as well as grower groups:

  • Mallee Sustainable Farming System – SA/VIC/NSW
  • Birchip Cropping Group – VIC
  • Agricultural Innovation & Research Eyre Peninsula, Upper North Farming Systems – SA
  • Farmlink and Central West Farming Systems – NSW
  • Corrigin Farm Improvement Group, ASheep and Mingenew Irwin Group – WA

Project information:

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