A group of Italian researchers visited Western Australia last week as part of a research collaboration that could boost pasture seed export opportunities for the State.
The Department of Agriculture and Food is working with the Agricultural Research Institute of Sardinia to help re-establish pastures on the Italian island, which is home to the country’s famous dairy sheep.
The first container of pasture legume seed grown in WA was delivered to the institute recently, which is expected to be sown on pilot farms next month.
Department researcher Dr Angelo Loi said many WA varieties were well suited to the Mediterranean climate and in an ironic turn-around, some annual pastures that were originally sourced from Italy and developed for WA conditions weare now going back to Italy.
“Species such as French and yellow serradella, biserrula, bladder clover and gland clover have great potential to improve the sustainability of cereal rotations and increase the productivity of the degraded natural pastures of Sardinia,” Dr Loi said.
WA leads the world in the development of annual pasture legumes and many cultivars have gained international acceptance.
The collaboration evolved after Dr Loi, who grew up in Sardinia, was invited back to Sardinia last year to talk to local researchers and farmers about pasture legumes and their use in local agricultural systems.
“Sardinia has a very dry climate, like WA, and in recent years there has been an increased reliance on pellet feeding sheep,” he said.
“By introducing pastures back into the Sardinian farming system, the dairy sheep producers, who have about four million sheep, could build a more sustainable operation.
“It is important for Sardinian farmers to get back to their origins and use pastures in their rotations and reduce their reliance on supplementary feeding. If we can help them to do that, it will also create opportunities for WA pasture seed growers to supply them with seed.”