Cheers for Charano

Hard seed answers growers' requests

Farmers looking for an alternate legume pasture in their cropping systems now have an exciting new option, Charano yellow serradella.

Boasting high seed yields and levels of hard seed, Charano is expected to take off in WA as a viable pasture option in a 1:1 pasture/crop system.

Results of a trial supported by graingrowers and the Federal Government through the GRDC indicate a clear role for Charano in WA's expanding cropping systems in low- to medium-rainfall areas.

According to Brad Nutt of the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA), Charano has a host of features that make it a highly attractive pasture legume.

"These include its ability to adapt to infertile and acid soils and its early maturity, but especially its high seed yields and hard seed levels," he said. Hard seed allows a pasture to persist through a cropping phase.

In the past, hard-seeded serradella varieties were unpopular due to low germination in the first year (as low as 5 per cent).

But Mr Nutt said advances in processing yellow serradella seed had drastically enhanced its ability to germinate (up to 80 per cent) and the yellow serradella industry was now set to surge forward.

Trials conducted by Mr Nutt this year indicated the yellow serradella did not produce as much herbage in its establishment year as its French relative Cadiz, but boasted huge advantages in seed production.

Charano yielded 307-444 kg/ha of clean seed, while Cadiz yielded 9-22 kg/ha. Nungarin subclover yielded 76-121 kg/ha at a low-rainfall site.

These differences are largely due to their differing maturity, with Charano flowering about 20 days earlier than Cadiz.

"Its lower initial herbage yield compared to Cadiz serradella is more than compensated for by its capacity to produce a high and persistent seed bank," Mr Nutt said.

"There is ample evidence in the literature which shows that the productivity and success of ley farming systems are highly correlated to the capacity of the pasture legume to set seed.

"Spray-topping with non-selective herbicides to eliminate seedset of ryegrass is a common practice for wheatbelt farmers and the capacity of Charano to flower and set seed earlier than Cadiz is a major advantage in low-rainfall environments."

While hard-seed levels were not determined in this trial, Mr Nutt said from past experience it was estimated Charano seed was about 99 per cent hard after the first summer, while Nungarin subclover was about 40 per cent hard-seeded and Cadiz had no hard seed.

CLIMA research on Charano was led by Mr Nutt and by Stephen Carr (now research manager, LAMA Ltd) and supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC. The research program yielded a range of new pasture varieties that together give graingrowers far more management flexibility.

Program 3.3.3 Contact: Dr Mike Ewing or Mr Brad Nutt 08 9380 2505