A GROUP of South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) representatives and South Australian pasture producers attended a Pasture Tour on a range of properties from York through to Northampton last week.
The four-day tour was part of the Dryland Legume Pasture Systems (DLPS) project funded to $18 million (2017-2022) and led by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, supported by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).
They are working closely with Murdoch University, SARDI, CSIRO, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Charles Sturt University to develop "novel pasture legumes for mixed farms in dry areas".
About eight people attended the tour hosted by DPIRD senior research officer - pasture breeding, agronomy and ecology Angelo Loi, Global Pasture Consultants Neil Ballard and Alosca Technologies business development manager Floyd Sullivan.
The pasture legume selection and breeding for the new project is being conducted by Murdoch University under the supervision of Associate Professor Brad Nutt.
The rhizobiology, which is essential to successful legume development, is being conducted at Murdoch University's Centre for Rhizobium Studies, under the direction of Dr Ron Yates.
Farm Weekly caught up with them at the property of Badgingarra farmer and chairman of the Pasture Grower Association of WA David Paish.
Mr Paish was one of a list of farmers who were visited during the tour.
By that time they were one stop away from completing the tour and appeared happy with their decision to visit Western Australia and see what challenges and opportunities growers had here compared to their operations in South Australia.
There was a lot of discussion about rainfall, variations in soil types across the farm and more specifically what worked well when growing pastures for seed.
The tour started in Northam at the DPIRD facilities before heading to York where they looked at summer sowing of serradella - sorghum, serradella silage, French serradella seed production and other crops in a mixed farming system.
The following day they headed to Dandaragan where they also looked at summer sowing of French Serradella, biserrula, balansa clover spading amelioration, perennial grasses and serradella as well as pasture manipulation.
At Mingenew they checked out the DLPS trials at I & B Brodie's farm before moving on to continuous cropping and serradella at Paul Kelly's - there was also a chance to view sub clovers and a herbicide trial at the farm of Carl Forward.
On Wednesday they arrived at Chapman Valley, where Jason and Barry Stokes gave them a tour of the biserrula, bladder clover, eastern star clover and their pasture manipulation before they travelled to Northampton and Binnu to look at a range of pastures on multiple farms.
After visiting Mr Paish they headed back to Perth for a tour of the CSIRO facilities at Floreat.
The DLPS brochure says that over the past three decades there has been a shift from integrated crop-livestock production to intensive cropping in dry areas, which has significantly reduced the resilience of farms.
Intensive cropping is prone to herbicide resistant weeds, large nitrogen fertiliser requirements and major financial shocks due to frost, drought or low grain prices.
A pilot project with MLA and AWI in WA and southern New South Wales demonstrated how novel pasture legumes such as serradella, biserrula and bladder clover can improve livestock production while reducing nitrogen requirements, weeds and diseases for following crops.
The DLPS project aims to develop recently discovered pasture legumes together with innovative management techniques that benefit animal and crop production and farm logistics and promote their adoption on mixed farms over one million hectares in the low and medium rainfall areas of WA, South Australia, Victoria and southern NSW.
It is also aiming to halve financial risk for mixed farmers.
DPIRD said pastures played a major role in agricultural enterprises and contributed more than $3 billion annually in WA through animal production, improvements to crop rotations and conserved fodder.
"In a typical year pastures occupy up to half the land in low to medium rainfall areas and over two thirds of the land in high rainfall areas," DPIRD said.
"Improved pastures are increasingly being used to play a more comprehensive role in farming systems to address emerging challenges for environment protection and food production.
"The department provides information, tools and resources to support the success of the agriculture sector in improving the productivity and profitability of pasture systems under both dryland and irrigated conditions."
The DLPS project was developed by Murdoch University to select and breed pasture legumes and rhizobia adapted to low rainfall fine textured soils.
Murdoch University is also monitoring nitrogen fixation from the new pastures and developing methods for their incorporation into farming systems that improve soil fertility.