Puccinellia Ciliata for the Wimmera
Puccinellia, (Puccinellia ciliata) a member of the Poaceae family originates from the west coast of Turkey, and was introduced to Australia in the 1950's by CSIRO where it was promoted and adopted as a saline and waterlogged area pasture in Western Australia.
Puccinellia forms a tussock stand up to 70cm high. Its leaves are long and thin, with the growing points embedded into the base of the plant allowing the plant to recover after grazing. The plant is a dependable food source that grows from mid-autumn through to spring with it maturing early in summer. Pucinellia will respond better to some form of rotational grazing eg. strategic grazing.
Puccinellia seed is very fine and light and the area can be used as a 'weed seed free' zone during the spring summer period for sheep-meat and wool production if saline and no weeds are present.
It is the most salt tolerant of all the commercially available grasses and will grow in very high soil salinities without significant loss in production.
Puccinellia grows in saline waterlogged soils with EC values in the range of 10-40 dS/m. It is suited to bare scald areas due to salinity. Puccinellia ciliata grows best in rainfall areas greater than 350mm, it will grow in areas too waterlogged for saltbushes and tall wheat grass. (Saltland pastures in Australia, a practical guide page 60)
Establishing Puccinellia ciliata
Puccinellia seed should be sown onto lightly cultivated soil that has very good weed control in place soon after the break in season. Sowing rates are between 6 – 10kg/ha, the more saline the ground the thicker the bed of seed should be i.e. the higher the rate of seed used. When sowing on bare scalds seed can be sown without rolling afterwards.
The establishment results below are from trials ran in South Australia on Puccinellia Perennial Sweet Grass and gives a guide to applications.
Results to date show puccinellia responds well to nitrogen-based fertiliser. The best response is from an autumn/winter application (ie. Applied soon after the seasonal break).
A rate of approximately 25kg/ha of nitrogen gives best value for money in the Upper South East for winter applications, particularly when costing against supplementary feeding during the autumn/winter period.
This strategy is sound providing the area does not become waterlogged within 4 weeks of applying urea.
If there is a high risk of flooding, spring applications of urea can be beneficial at a rate of approximately 12kg/ha of nitrogen.
Soil Extractable phosphorus levels are adequate for puccinellia above 12mg/kg. (Colwell P: method of testing for phosphorous)
Plant emergence may take up to 2 months, ensure no grazing occurs in the first 10 to 12 months, allowing the stands to establish properly. Most important is that Puccinellia is not heavily grazed for extended periods of time.
Puccinellia has the potential to become invasive in non-agricultural areas. To avoid this risk it is recommended that sowing should allow buffer zones alongside these 'at risk' areas. The following buffer distances for public and native vegetation land is recommended;
- 100 metres from saline areas
- 50 metres from poorly drained areas
- 50 metres from waterways
- 25 metres from other non-agricultural areas, eg. Road reserves, public land
Puccinellia requires an annual rainfall above 350mm, and will grow on sites that have become waterlogged, however sites should be dry on the surface during summer.
Sites growing barley grass or with bare scalds are suitable to Puccinellia. In varying saline soils it is recommended to mix sow Puccinellia with Tall Wheat Grass and Balansa Clover which have more moderate tolerance to salinity. Puccinellia and Tall Wheat Grass do have different activity levels however, Tall Wheat Grass is active from spring through to autumn, whereas Puccinellia is more autumn – spring active. For this reason these pastures require grazing pressures at different times, this must be considered if sowing these pastures in the same paddock.
Puccinellia shouldn't be grazed in the first year, with stands only to be lightly grazed in the second year of establishment.
During wet periods, stock should be rotationally grazed on the higher ground out of the water in the winter and brought down to the Puccinellia pasture flats for the late summer/autumn period. While Puccinellia is at its best through the winter to late spring period, saltland pastures in the region can be inundated in an average wet year. As a consequence it is important that Puccinellia is carefully grazed in early winter, maintaining some height to survive the effects of waterlogging.
It is also important to maintain cover through the late spring and summer period to reduce the salinity level through this period, in which soil salinity peaks. Groundcover over saline areas is critical in minimising the rise of salts to the surface. Cover minimises evaporation from the soil surface and consequent 'crusting of salts'. It is for this reason that most landholders will carryover feed into the autumn on saltland, utilising it as their autumn 'haystack' (Morris 2001)
While feed quality declines as the plant dries off over the summer period, it still compares favourably with other dry pasture feeds such as hay, which are made available through the summer-autumn period when feed is scarce.
Winter to early spring when the plant is at its greenest, protein has a high content level of 10-18%, with digestibility of 60-78%, puccinellia has a low salt content making it ideal for supplementary feed for stock, see table1. (Feed value of Puccinellia sampled at various stages of growth) for further statistics.
Nutritive value declines as the plant flowers and browns off. Crude protein is less than 5%, with digestibility less than 50% (Saltland pastures in Australia, a practical guide page 61).
It is recommended to let the stand thicken by removing livestock from grazing around mid – to late spring. As with all grazing strategies grazing should vary according to seasonal and growing conditions.
|Growth stage range *||Vegetative*|
|Protein (%)||12||9.2||5||4.7 – 6.2|
|Digestibility (%)||78||60||61||45 – 60|
|Metabolisable energy (MJ/kg dry matter)||10.7||8.1||8.3||5.5 - 7|
Table 1. Feed value of puccinellia sampled at various stages of growth.
The red legged earth mite will cause the most damage during the establishment period and is a pest that will need to be monitored and controlled.
- E.G. Barrett-Lennard with contributions from C.V. Malcolm and A.Bathgate. (September 2003). Saltland Pastures in Australia, A Practical Guide second edition, pp 60-61.
- Puccinellia Perennial Sweet Grass.(2000) Tim Herrmann and Nick Booth (PISA), with assistance from National Landcare Program, Coorong District Council & the Coorong Districts, Lacepede/Tatiara and Lower South-East Soil Conservation Boards.
- Duck Island Puccinellia (1997). James Darling, Duck Island Partners South Australia.
- Agriculture Western Australia Farmnote, Puccinellia – for productive saltland pastures (1999). Ed Barrett-Lernnard, Senior Research Officer, South Perth, and Colin Holt, Revegetation Development Officer, Narrogin.
- Discussion Paper, Future and environmental management of Tall Wheat Grass in the Wimmera (October 2001) Leah Thompson and John McIntyre, Natural Resources Environment.
- Saltland Agronomy Update for the Upper South East, SA 2. Feed value of Puccinellia (2001) Kate Morris and Tracey Strugnell, Saltland Agronomy Project PIRSA
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