Benefits of Native Grasses

Published 19 February 2016. The first principle of horticulture is to select the right plant for its location. This principle minimises cost of establishment and ongoing maintenance...

The first principle of horticulture is to select the right plant for its location. This principle minimises cost of establishment and ongoing maintenance.

With approximately 250 species of native grasses found across the Central Tablelands and the Slopes and Plains of New South Wales there is plenty to choose from.

Despite the assumption that ‘superior’ introduced grasses can permanently increase farm productivity, the bulk of Australia’s grazing industry relies on native pastures. This is because native grasses are well adapted to the Australian environment.

Most are tolerant of intermittent droughts and fires, and establishing and surviving on infertile and shallow soils. Some are highly tolerant of acid soils, for example Wallaby grasses and Microlaena.

Australian native grasses are stress tolerators and will persist where ‘improved’ introduced grasses do not survive.

Comparisons between native and introduced grasses usually involved unfertilised native grasses compared with fertilised introduced grasses. Therefore it is not surprising that native grasses are thought to produce forage of a lesser quality than introduced counterparts.

Research on many native grasses has shown that, given similar situations, native grasses compare favourably with introduced species. This, of course, depends on the species composition of the pasture.

The more productive native grasses such as Wallaby Grass, Common Wheat Grass and Microlaena have crude protein and digestibility levels as good as, or better, than the introduced species Tall Fescue, Phalaris and Cocksfoot.

Native grasses generally respond more favourably to lower rates of fertiliser than introduced species. Therefore it would seem that utilising what is already there in the form of native grasses, and managing them appropriately, provides a low cost alternative to sowing introduced species.

Do you have some native grass seed to harvest?

Watershed Land care will be holding a farm walk and demonstration of our grass seed harvester, which is available for hire, on Saturday 20 February.

The farm walk and demonstration will be held at 'Havilah', 20 km from Mudgee on the Lue Rd. We will meet at Havilah woolshed at 9:30am and conclude with complimentary morning tea at 11:30am. All welcome.

Watershed Landcare's resident botanist, Christine McRae, and Central Tablelands LLS Senior Land Services Officer, Bruce Christie, will be on hand to discuss native grasses and answer any questions you might have.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and partially funded through the Central Tablelands LLS and the Australian Government's 25th Anniversary Landcare grants.