Pasture legumes and grasses for saline land

Page last updated: Friday, 12 April 2019 - 11:53am

Pasture establishment

Germinating seedlings are very sensitive to salinity. Therefore, all species, apart from the sub-tropical grasses, should be sown soon after early season rains have flushed salt from the soil surface. Soil cultivation will enhance salt leaching.  Sub-tropical grasses should be sown in late-winter or early spring, while the soil surface is still moist and temperatures are beginning to rise.

Pasture legumes should be inoculated prior to sowing with the strain of Rhizobium appropriate for the species. This is particularly important on saltland, as background rhizobia levels are likely to be very low (or nil).

As with any pasture sowing, good weed control is important to optimise pasture establishment. Ideally, weeds should be controlled in the year prior to sowing to prevent seed set. Two knockdown herbicide applications are recommended, the first following an initial weed germination and the second just prior to sowing. It is important to note that many weeds (e.g. sea barley grass and ice plant) will have a delayed germination on saline sites (the delay will be longer on more highly affected sites).

Sowing and fertiliser rates, seeding depth, post-emergent weed and insect control and grazing management will be the same for these species as for establishment on non-saline land. The aim in the year of sowing should be to maximise the seed set of annuals and the ground cover of perennials to set up a long-term pasture.

Table 2 Annual legume options (registered cultivars) for different categories of salinity, waterlogging, soil texture, soil pH and rainfall. Key: 1Other proprietary cultivars may be available that have not been tested. Note acronym: millimetres (mm)
Annual rainfall (mm) Salinity (see Table 1) Waterlogging risk Texture pH (CaCl2) Suitable species - common name Suitable species - scientific name Suitable species - cultivars1 Comments
275–325 Moderate–high Low Sandy loams–clay loams 5.2–8.5 Burr medic Medicago polymorpha Serena Less salt tolerant than Scimitar
275–350 Moderate Low Loams–clays 5.8–9.0 Barrel medic Medicago truncatula Caliph
300–425 Moderate–high Low Sandy loams–clay loams 5.2–8.5 Burr medic Medicago polymorpha Scimitar, Santiago Scimitar is the best performing burr medic on saltland
325–500 Moderate Low Loams–clays 5.8–9.0 Snail medic Medicago scutellata Sava, Silver, Essex
>350 Moderate-severe High Sandy loams-clays 5.5-9.0 Messina Melilotus siculus Neptune Needs salt-tolerant rhizobium
350–550 Moderate–high Low Sandy loams–clay loams 5.2–8.5 Burr medic Medicago polymorpha Cavalier
350–550 Moderate Low Sandy loams–clays 4.8–8.0 Sphere medic Medicago sphaerocarpos Orion
350–550 Low–moderate High Sandy loams–loams 4.5–8.0 Balansa clover Trifolium michelianum Frontier
425–650 Low–moderate High Loams–clays 5.0–8.0 Persian clover Trifolium resupinatum Prolific, Nitro Plus
450–700 Low–moderate High Sandy loams–loams 4.5–8.0 Balansa clover Trifolium michelianum Paradana
>550 Moderate–high Low Loams–clays 4.5–8.0

Bokhara clover/

White sweetclover
Melilotus albus Jota High coumarin levels can cause haemorrhaging of stock if fed mouldy hay
>600 Low–moderate High Sandy loams–loams 4.5–8.0 Balansa clover Trifolium michelianum Bolta
>650 Low–moderate High Loams–clays 5.0–8.0 Persian clover Trifolium resupinatum Kyambro
>700 Low–moderate High Loams–clays 5.0–8.0

Persian clover/

Shaftal clover

Trifolium resupinatum Many cultivars One year fodder types
Table 3 Temperate annual grass options for different categories of salinity, waterlogging, soil texture, soil pH and rainfall. Note: 1Other proprietary cultivars may be available that have not been tested
Annual rainfall (mm) Salinity (see Table 1) Waterlogging risk Texture pH (CaCl2) Suitable species - common name Suitable species - scientific name Suitable species - cultivars1 Comments
275–650 Moderate Low Sands–clays 5.0–8.0 Annual ryegrass Lolium rigidum Wimmera, Safeguard Safeguard has resistance to annual ryegrass toxicity
>550 Low–moderate Low Loams–clays 5.0–8.0 Italian ryegrass Lolium multiflorum Many cultivars
Table 4 Perennial legumes for different categories of salinity, waterlogging, soil texture, soil pH and rainfall. Key: 1Other proprietary cultivars may be available that have not been tested
Annual rainfall (mm) Salinity (see Table 1) Waterlogging risk Texture pH (CaCl2) Suitable species - common name Suitable species - scientific name Suitable species - cultivars1 Comments
>400 Moderate Low Sands–clay loams 5.6–9.0 Lucerne Medicago sativa Many cultivars Winter active and highly winter-active cultivars perform best in WA
>550 Low–moderate High Sandy loams–clays 5.6–9.0 Strawberry clover Trifolium fragiferum O’Connors, Palestine
Table 5 Temperate perennial grasses for different categories of salinity, waterlogging, soil texture, soil pH and rainfall. Key: 1Other proprietary cultivars may be available that have not been tested
Annual rainfall (mm) Salinity (see Table 1) Waterlogging risk Texture pH (CaCl2) Suitable species - common name Suitable species - scientific name Suitable species - cultivars1 Comments
>400 High–severe High Sands–clays 5.5–9.0 Puccinellia Pucinellia ciliata Menemen Best suited to waterlogged, saline soils, dormant over summer
>400 High Moderate Sandy loams–clays 4.5–9.0 Tall wheat grass Thinopyrum ponticum Dundas, Tyrell Tolerates ECe levels >16 dS/m if it can access fresh water at depth, has weed potential in Victoria
>500 Low–moderate Moderate Sands–clays 4.3–8.5 Tall fescue Festuca arundinaceae Many cultivars Summer dormant cultivars perform best in WA
>550 Low–moderate Moderate Loams–clays 4.5–8.0 Phalaris Phalaris tuberosa Many cultivars Winter active cultivars perform best in WA
Table 6 Sub-tropical perennial grasses for different categories of salinity, waterlogging, soil texture, soil pH and rainfall. Key: 1Other proprietary cultivars may be available that have not been tested
Annual rainfall (mm) Salinity (see Table 1) Waterlogging risk Texture pH (CaCl2) Suitable species - common name Suitable species - scientific name Suitable species - cultivars1 Comments
>350 High-severe High Sands–clays 5.5–8.0 Distichilis Distichilis spicata NyPa forage Only propagated by cuttings
>400 Low–moderate Low Sands–loams 5.5–8.0 Rhodes grass Chloris gayana Many cultivars Low frost tolerance, suited to northern and south coastal districts
>400 Moderate Moderate–high Sands–clays 3.7–7.0 Kikuyu Pennisetum clandestinum Whittet Performs poorly north of Perth

 

Contact information

Ed Barrett-Lennard
+61 (0)8 9368 3798