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Poor adoption of ley-pastures in south-west Queensland: biophysical, economic and social constraints.

Singh, D.K and McGuckian, N. and Routley, R.A. and Thomas, G.A. and Dalal, R.C. and Dang, Y.P. and Hall, T.J. and Strahan, R. and Christodoulou, N. and Cawley, S. and Ward, L. (2009) Poor adoption of ley-pastures in south-west Queensland: biophysical, economic and social constraints. Animal Production Science, 49 (9-10). pp. 894-906.

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN09015

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au

Abstract

The present review identifies various constraints relating to poor adoption of ley-pastures in south-west Queensland, and suggests changes in research, development and extension efforts for improved adoption. The constraints include biophysical, economic and social constraints.

In terms of biophysical constraints, first, shallower soil profiles with subsoil constraints (salt and sodicity), unpredictable rainfall, drier conditions with higher soil temperature and evaporative demand in summer, and frost and subzero temperature in winter, frequently result in a failure of established, or establishing, pastures. Second, there are limited options for legumes in a ley-pasture, with the legumes currently being mostly winter-active legumes such as lucerne and medics. Winter-active legumes are ineffective in improving soil conditions in a region with summer-dominant rainfall. Third, most grain growers are reluctant to include grasses in their ley-pasture mix, which can be uneconomical for various reasons, including nitrogen immobilisation, carryover of cereal diseases and depressed yields of the following cereal crops. Fourth, a severe depletion of soil water following perennial ley-pastures (grass + legumes or lucerne) can reduce the yields of subsequent crops for several seasons, and the practice of longer fallows to increase soil water storage may be uneconomical and damaging to the environment.

Economic assessments of integrating medium- to long-term ley-pastures into cropping regions are generally less attractive because of reduced capital flow, increased capital investment, economic loss associated with establishment and termination phases of ley-pastures, and lost opportunities for cropping in a favourable season. Income from livestock on ley-pastures and soil productivity gains to subsequent crops in rotation may not be comparable to cropping when grain prices are high. However, the economic benefits of ley-pastures may be underestimated, because of unaccounted environmental benefits such as enhanced water use, and reduced soil erosion from summer-dominant rainfall, and therefore, this requires further investigation.

In terms of social constraints, the risk of poor and unreliable establishment and persistence, uncertainties in economic and environmental benefits, the complicated process of changing from crop to ley-pastures and vice versa, and the additional labour and management requirements of livestock, present growers socially unattractive and complex decision-making processes for considering adoption of an existing medium- to long-term ley-pasture technology.

It is essential that research, development and extension efforts should consider that new ley-pasture options, such as incorporation of a short-term summer forage legume, need to be less risky in establishment, productive in a region with prevailing biophysical constraints, economically viable, less complex and highly flexible in the change-over processes, and socially attractive to growers for adoption in south-west Queensland.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Agri-Science, Crop and Food Science
Additional Information:© CSIRO.
Keywords:Erosion; evaporation; forage; grasses; immobilization; income; legumes; ley farming; lucerne; nitrogen; pastures; rotations; soil profiles; soil temperature; water use.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Farm economics. Farm management. Agricultural mathematics
Plant culture > Field crops > Forage crops. Feed crops
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Deposited On:09 Apr 2010 03:00
Last Modified:26 Oct 2011 02:11

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