Double dipping delivers fodder and grain

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Pasture cropping involves sowing an annual crop into a perennial pasture base to generate summer fodder and a harvestable crop from the same land.

Photo of pasture-cropped barley and lucerne biomass

Pasture-cropped barley (right) yielded 6.13 t/ha despite having a significant amount of lucerne growing beneath it (left, indicates potential lucerne biomass underneath barley crop).

PHOTO: Simon Falkiner

Pasture-cropped barley returned the best grain yield, averaging 5.5t/ha in the trials, followed by wheat at 4.3t/ha and canola at 1.7t/ha.

Grain & Graze 2 trials in southern Victoria have shown that commercially acceptable grain yields can be achieved when winter crops are sown into a lucerne stand, provided lucerne growth is inhibited during the crop phase.

Barley returned the best grain yield, averaging 5.5 tonnes per hectare in the trials, followed by wheat at 4.3t/ha and canola at 1.7t/ha (Figure 1).

Graphic showing average pasture cropping yields, Inverleigh 2013

Figure 1 Average pasture cropping yields, Inverleigh, 2013.

Lontrel™ (clopyralid) successfully inhibited lucerne growth during the crop phase. Establishing lucerne on wide (30-centimetre) rather than conventional (15cm) row spacings lifted crop yield and improved grain quality in the pasture cropping trials without affecting lucerne production over summer (Figure 2).

Graphic showing impact of lucerne row spacingon pasture-cropped wheat protein, Inverleigh, 2013

Figure 2 Impact of lucerne row spacing on pasture-cropped wheat protein, Inverleigh, 2013.

As with all cropping enterprises, weed control is paramount to achieving good grain yields. Large ryegrass populations in some trial plots reduced grain yield. Controlling weed seed-set in the spring before embarking on a pasture-cropping program is therefore essential. 

Lucerne varieties with strong winter dormancy (cultivars WL342 and King Island creeper) were chosen for the trial. King Island creeper also has a prostrate growing habit, which minimises crop competition and harvest difficulties.

Other key observations from the trial were as follows:

  • Barley stood out as the lead performer in the pasture cropping trials. It established well and achieved quick canopy closure, which reduced weed competition and maintained good lucerne suppression.
  • Wheat was handicapped by a less vigorous establishment and canopy closure, which enabled greater competition from weeds (mainly ryegrass) and accelerated lucerne recovery despite Lontrel™ suppression. To counter the lucerne recovery, the crop was desiccated to overcome harvest problems.
  • Canola achieved an average yield of 1.7t/ha, which was less than expected and may have been due to a marginally late application of clethodim. Windrowing the canola overcame problems associated with green lucerne at harvest.

More information:

Simon Falkiner, FalkinerAg,
0407 319 967,


Pasture phase delivers free nitrogen and fodder


Spring-sown canola delivers fodder and grain

GRDC Project Code SFS00020

Region South