Dryland legume pasture systems: quantifying benefits of novel legume pastures to livestock production systems


Research organisatons
Funding sources

Trial details

Researcher(s) Jessica Gunn (SARDI)
Year(s) 2018
Contributor SARDI Minnipa Agricultural Centre
Trial location(s) Minnipa Agricultural Centre, SA
Related trials
Dryland legume pasture systems: quantifying benefits of novel legume pastures to livestock production systems locations

In southern Australian mixed farming systems, there are many opportunities for pasture improvement, providing positive impacts to both cropping and livestock systems. Dryland legume pastures are necessary in low to medium rainfall zones to support productive and healthy livestock, along with optimal production in crops following these pastures. The majority of pasture species used in these mixed farming systems are short-lived annuals that complete their lifecycle from winter to early summer, with dry seasonal conditions resulting in a shorter growth window between germination and senescence. This is a major issue for livestock producers in these regions due to unreliable rainfall patterns leading to fluctuating legume growth, and the subsequent impact on feed supply and quality for grazing animals.

Innovative and improved legume species and pasture systems have the potential to fill existing nutrient gaps, thus reducing supplementary feed required for optimum ruminant performance, and maintain or improve livestock productivity through growth rates, fertility or product quality.


The Dryland Legume Pasture Systems (DLPS) project aims to boost profit and reduce risk in medium and low rainfall areas by developing recently discovered pasture legumes together with innovative management techniques that benefit animal and crop production and farm logistics. A theme of the DLPS project involves ‘Quantifying the benefits of novel legume pastures to livestock production systems’ and aims to maximise the advantages that pastures provide to livestock through increased animal growth and reproduction by extending the period of quality feed and reduced supplementary feeding. The animal systems research within the project will also assess areas of understanding anti-nutritional factors and ‘duty of care’ for new pasture species, providing opportunities for improved weed management and evaluate the main benefits of novel self-regenerating pasture legumes in crop rotations on animal production, health and welfare.


This theme is a component of a five year Rural R&D for Profit funded project supported by GRDC, MLA and AWI; and involving Murdoch University, CSIRO, SARDI, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development; Charles Sturt University and grower groups.


A five-year grazing system trial was established at the Minnipa Agricultural Centre (MAC) in 2018 to examine this theme and is the main livestock field site for the DLPS trial in the southern region of Australia.

Key messages
  • Novel legume species and genotypes have the potential to reduce feed gaps and provide other farming systems and livestock benefits in low to medium rainfall regions of southern Australia.
  • The five-year large scale grazing systems trial established at Minnipa in 2018 is the main livestock field site for the national Dryland Legume Pasture Systems project. Five annual legume species are being tested.
  • The priority for this trial in 2018 was to optimise seed set given the poor seasonal conditions, and therefore no grazing was undertaken in the establishment year, but instead will commence with sufficient pasture growth in 2019 to determine the best legume option for livestock production. 
Lead research organisation South Australian Research and Development Institute
Host research organisation SARDI Minnipa Agricultural Centre
Trial funding source GRDC RnD4Profit-16-03-010
Trial funding source AWI RnD4Profit-16-03-010
Trial funding source MLA RnD4Profit-16-03-010
Trial funding source AGRR&D RnD4Profit-16-03-010
Related program Dryland Legume Pasture Systems (Rural R&D for Profit)

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program; the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia; and Australian Wool Innovation. The research partners include the South Australian Research and Development Institute, Murdoch University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and Charles Sturt University, as well as 10 grower groups.

We gratefully acknowledge the help of Jake Hull, Wade Shepperd and John Kelsh for site set-up and management and the assistance of Steve Jeffs and Bradley Hutchings for data collection, and the Waite team and Murdoch University team for data processing.

Other trial partners Murdoch University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and Charles Sturt University
Download the trial report to view additional trial information


Crop type Mixed species
Treatment type(s)
  • Crop: Type
  • Variety: Type
Trial type Experimental
Trial design Randomised,Replicated,Blocked

Minnipa Agricultural Centre 2018

Sowing machinery

Sown using broad acre tractor and disc seeder. 2 Ha

Sow date 5 July 2018 5-7 July 2018
Harvest date 3 December 2018
Plot size Not specified
Plot replication 3
Plot blocking fully randomised block design
Plot randomisation fully randomised block design

50 kg/ha DAP


Sowing was delayed due to lack of rainfall, which was required to allow naturalised medic to germinate at the trial site. A pre-emergent herbicide was used two days prior to sowing (2 L/ha Roundup DST + 40 ml/ha Hammer + 118 g/ha Sakura) to eradicate any naturalised medic plants already present, in order to reduce competition with the sown crop and pasture treatments.

A mixture of Targa Bolt @ 150 ml/ha, Uptake @ 0.35 L/ha and Clethodim @ 450 ml/ha was applied on 27 August to eradicate grasses.


The trial suffered two pest attacks. Firstly by Cowpea aphids which appeared on all lines but at higher density on the vetches, and then by Native Budworm. Fortunately both of these pests were brought under control and did not appear to have caused any lasting damage.

Inoculant *all inoculation treatments were applied with sticker @ 1.5%, lime and fungicide of 350 g/L Metalaxyl-M (ApronXL 350 ES) @ 1 ml/kg seed
Download the trial report to view additional method/treatment information

Download results

Trial results Table 1

# Treatment 1
Ground cover (%) Biomass (t/ha)
1 Scepter wheat 59 5.7
2 Harbinger medic 61 0.8
3 Volga vetch 70 1.3
4 PM250 strand medic 63 0.5
5 Trigonella balansae 59 0.8
6 SARDI Rose clover 63 0.5

Biomass t/ha


Ground cover %

Observed trial site soil information
Trial site soil testing
Site Depth Type pH EC P K N A OC CAT
Minnipa Agricultural Centre, SA 0 - 10cm 8.40
Soil conditions
Trial site Soil texture
Minnipa Agricultural Centre, SA Red sandy loam
Derived trial site soil information
Australian Soil Classification Source: ASRIS
Trial site Soil order
Minnipa Agricultural Centre, SA Calcarosol
Soil Moisture Source: BOM/ANU
Average amount of water stored in the soil profile during the year, estimated by the OzWALD model-data fusion system.
Year Minnipa Agricultural Centre SA
2018 429.5mm
2017 443.9mm
2016 405.1mm
2015 379.2mm
2014 440.5mm
2013 402.0mm
2012 445.2mm
2011 465.2mm
2010 442.3mm
2009 474.7mm
2008 403.9mm
2007 395.3mm
2006 423.0mm
2005 379.0mm
2004 360.2mm
2003 378.0mm
2002 382.0mm
2001 444.0mm
2000 464.3mm
National soil grid Source: CSIRO/TERN
NOTE: National Soil Grid data is aggregated information for background information on the wider area
Actual soil values can vary significantly in a small area and the trial soil tests are the most relevant data where available

Soil properties



Minnipa Agricultural Centre SA 2018

Observed climate information

Rainfall avg ann (mm) 325mm
Rainfall avg gsr (mm) 242mm
Rainfall trial total (mm) 269mm
Rainfall trial gsr (mm) 208mm

Derived climate information

Minnipa Agricultural Centre SA


Some data on this site is sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology

SILO weather estimates sourced from https://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/silo/
Jeffrey, S.J., Carter, J.O., Moodie, K.B. and Beswick, A.R. (2001). Using spatial interpolation to construct a comprehensive archive of Australian climate data , Environmental Modelling and Software, Vol 16/4, pp 309-330. DOI: 10.1016/S1364-8152(01)00008-1.

Trial report and links

2018 trial report

Trial last modified: 13-12-2019 14:23pm AEST