Trigonella debut

Trigonella balansae: researchers expect to produce over 100kg of seed at Medina Research Station this year.

Seed build-up of a pasture species new to Australia is well under way.

This is Trigonella halansae — an annual legume suited to alkaline and mildly acidic soils in the above-350 mm annual rainfall zone.

Brad Nutt of Agriculture Western Australia said evaluation work on lines from the Trigonella spp., sourced from a Swedish collection and elsewhere, had begun in 1994.

“We are particularly interested in one line which retains its seed pods better than others and has a lower percentage of hard seed than other lines,” he said. “WA will be proposing that we start pre-basic seed production this year.”

The species has been evaluated in other states including SA where Jake Howie of the SA Research and Development Institute describes it as a potentially useful adjunct to annual medics.

Trigonella balansae is an upright annual species with masses of yellow flowers. It has medic-like trifoliate leaves and is very palatable.

It is an aerially seeded plant and this is seen as a major advantage for harvesting and in providing growers with access to large supplies of cheap seed from their own stands.

“We see it as being useful in short pasture phases where intensive cropping is the main enterprise,” Mr Nutt said. “Because of its palatability and erect growing habit it will need good grazing management.

“Like fenugreek, it has a curry-like aroma and this could be an advantage as you could get a pleasant flavour in the meat of grazing animals. We will be doing some grazing trials to test this out.

Mr Howie said, when tested in SA, Trigonella:

  • flowered one to two weeks later than Herald strand medic
  • seed and dry matter production could be as good as annual medics where rainfall was greater than 350 mm, but below 325 mm its performance became more marginal
  • showed that it should persist following moderate summer grazing of dry residues
  • nodulated well with both background and commercial rhizobia strains responsible for nitrogen fixation in medics
  • did not appear to be as tolerant to broadleaf herbicides as some medics including the popular Herald variety.

The researchers say that while seed build-up could start, evaluation of the species will continue, including its ability to compete in mixed-pasture swards, its winter grazing tolerance, whether it will host cereal root diseases such as Pratylenchus, and its potential to taint meat or dairy products.

Research into Trigonella has been supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC and by Australian Wool Innovation Limited.

Program 3.6.1 Contact: Mr Brad Nutt 08 9368 3870 email bnutt@agric.wa.gov.au Mr Jake Howie 08 8303 9407