Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.09.1997

Book Review

Pasture Production and Management

Editors: J V Lovett and J M Scott

Inkata Press, Melbourne. ISBN 0909605 85 8

Reviewer: David Kemp

NSW Agriculture, Pasture Development Group and CRC for Weed Management Systems

Australia has an area of more than 7.5 million square kilometres. More than two-thirds of that is used for livestock production. When Europeans first arrived, the low density of herbivores meant that grazing lands were not under much pressure. With settlements, these lands were subject to increased grazing pressure and the generally low soil fertility declined further.

Pasture Production and Management, edited by John Lovett and Jim Scott, outlines the current state of knowledge for better management of the pastures on which our livestock and many grain industries depend.

Scientists who were or are associated with the Department of Agronomy and Soil Science at the University of New England at Armidale wrote most of the 14 chapters. That department has a justifiably proud record of contributing to the science of pasture production and management. The emphasis is on pastures in the higher-rainfall temperate regions of Australia, but much information is useful to other regions as the same principles often apply.

The book should prove useful to undergraduate students, farmers and graziers interested in a better understanding of pastures as well as research and extension staff wishing to refresh their knowledge of pastures.

A useful focus looks at native versus introduced pasture species. Native species are receiving more attention in research, as is better management of the typical mixed pasture. To keep costs down, producers need to employ more subtle and tactical management of pastures than annual resowing, based upon sound scientific studies. The authors outline some useful techniques.

With the continued development of pastures, problems have grown with pests, diseases and weeds - these are major constraints to productivity. Today we realise that pastures are ecosystems and the job of scientists and producers is to optimise the productivity and utilisation of those ecosystems, rather than maximising their use. The complexity of these issues is illustrated in several chapters, which include the importance of understanding soil biology. Today there is more consideration of developing integrated strategies for managing these problems.

The last chapter gives a fitting summary of the role of pastures in sustainable systems. Unless we develop pasture management practices that consider long-term effects on sustainability, biodiversity and off-site effects, we will be depleting Australia's most valuable natural resource.

The concluding section provides a good checklist of those issues still to be resolved if our grandchildren are to inherit a land as productive as we did.