HOW TO: give the land a break with pastures

Pasture leys for a more productive and sustainable northern industry.

A NEW adult learning package to help farmers stop the decline in soil fertility and grain protein levels is being developed and roadtested in the northern grainbelt during the next two years.

The 'Leygrain' module is a Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) and NSW Agriculture initiative, funded by the ORDC, to encourage the use of ley and phase pastures.

Brian Johnson from QDPI said, "an increase in the use of pastures that improves soil fertility and gives the soil a break from continuous cropping will lead to a more productive and sustainable grains industry in the northern zone".

The economic cost of soil degradation is put at over $450 million a year. It is also estimated that 70 per cent of the region's inherently fertile and structurally stable cropping soils are affected by fertility decline, reducing grain yields and protein levels by up to half.

Comparing 10-year returns An interactive spreadsheet will allow farmers to create and compare gross margin returns from to-year farming systems. The spreadsheet can be used to assess the relative economic output of pasture rotations individually tailored to farmers' own properties and farming systems.

Mr Johnson said legumes are a key component in ley and phase pastures to increase soil nitrogen and organic matter and to improve soil structure. However, pastures in cropping systems in the northern zone are grazed largely by cattle, and legumes that cause bloat have been an impediment to their widespread adoption.

Leygrain should assist farmers to implement and manage ley pastures by, for example, better managing the risk of bloat with improved animal and legume management practices.

The Leygrain module will consist of three parts: a reference manual containing inFormation on different ley pastures and their uses; facilitator notes; and a resource book for use in workshops. The module is being roadtested now and is expected to be available generally in mid-2002.

Program 4 Contact: Mr David Lloyd 07 4688 1200; Mr Brian Johnson 07 4688 1339

Region North