Consol lovegrass has the following features:
- a persistent, drought-tolerant, tufted perennial grass
- warm season (C4) growth pattern
- suited to well drained, sandy and loamy soils
- highly tolerant of soil acidity
- has moderate to low feed quality and palatability, which, combined with its reputation for 'weediness' has resulted in low adoption.
African lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) or weeping lovegrass is a highly variable species native to southern Africa. It has been widely sown for rangeland regeneration and soil conservation in southern parts of the United States, South Africa and Argentina. The species has become naturalised in Australia but is often regarded as a serious weed because of its low feed value and unpalatability to stock.
Consol can be readily distinguished from the naturalised lovegrass in Western Australia (WA), as they belong to different agronomic ‘types’ within the E. curvula complex.
Wild African lovegrass (E. curvula type robusta blue) is naturalised on roadsides throughout south-western Australia, but has low palatability and is an aggressive coloniser of disturbed areas. The ‘wild’ type has prominent ridges on the leaf sheaths and long, thin, in-rolled leaves with greyish-green foliage.
Consol lovegrass (E. curvula type conferta) was selected by the NSW Soil Conservation Service for superior palatability, is less competitive than the naturalised type and is well grazed by sheep. Consol is recommended for controlling spiny burr grass in central New South Wales, where it is grown with serradella on acid, sandy soils.
Consol has not been widely evaluated in WA, however the widespread distribution of the naturalised type indicates that it could be grown over much of south-western Australia. Grazing trials in WA suggest it has lower palatability than panic grass and Rhodes grass.
The morphology of Consol lovegrass can be described as:
- a densely tufted perennial, with erect or weeping stems, 0.5-1.2 metres (m) high
- foliage is light blue-green to grey-green
- leaves are flat, 15-25 centimetres (cm) long and up to 7 millimetres (mm) wide
- ligule is about 1mm long with fringe of hairs and long lateral hairs
- leaf sheaths are purple at base, ridged with more hairs on the lower surface
- inflorescence is an open, olive green panicle up to 15cm long which droops as it matures
- the plant develops into a solid tussock and as it ages the inner stems die, leaving an unproductive centre of the plant.
Seasonal growth pattern
Consol lovegrass is a warm season (C4) grass species. It starts actively growing from early spring, while summer growth depends on moisture availability. It then grows actively from the first rains in autumn to early winter. It continues to grow slowly in winter, unlike many sub-tropical grasses which are dormant. However, at a range of sandy sites in the central wheatbelt less than 12.5% of the total annual biomass was produced between April and August.