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Pasture production and composition response after killing Eucalypt trees with herbicides in central Queensland

Hall, Trevor J. and Jones, Paul and Silcock, Richard G. and Filet, Piet G. (2016) Pasture production and composition response after killing Eucalypt trees with herbicides in central Queensland. The Rangeland Journal . ISSN 1036-9872

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ16013

Abstract

Clearing woodlands is practised world-wide to increase crop and livestock production, but can result in unintended consequences including woody regrowth and land degradation. The pasture response of 2 eucalypt woodlands in the central Queensland rangelands to killing trees with herbicides, in the presence or absence of grazing and regular spring burning, was recorded over 7 or 8 years to determine the long-term sustainability of these common practices. Herbage mass and species composition plus tree dynamics were monitored in 2 replicated experiments at each site. For 8 years following herbicide application, killing Eucalyptus populnea F. Muell. (poplar box) trees resulted in a doubling of native pasture herbage mass from that of the pre-existing woodland, with a tree basal area of 8.7 m2 ha-1. Conversely, over 7 years with a similar range of seasons, killing E. melanophloia F. Muell. (silver-leaved ironbark) trees of a similar tree basal area had little impact on herbage mass grown or on pasture composition for the first 4 years before production then increased. Few consistent changes in pasture composition were recorded after killing the trees, although there was an increase in the desirable grasses Dichanthium sericeum (R. Br.) A. Camus (Queensland bluegrass) and Themeda triandra Forssk. (kangaroo grass) when grazed conservatively. Excluding grazing allowed more palatable species of the major grasses to enhance their prominence, but seasonal conditions still had a major influence on their production in particular years. Pasture crown basal area was significantly higher where trees had been killed, especially in the poplar box woodland. Removing tree competition did not have a major effect on pasture composition that was independent of other management impositions or seasons, and it did not result in a rapid increase in herbage mass in both eucalypt communities. The slow pasture response to tree removal at one site indicates that regional models and economic projections relating to tree clearing require community-specific inputs.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:basal cover, bio-economic, Dichanthium sericeum, grazing, tree competition, woodland ecology.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural ecology (General)
Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Deposited On:31 Aug 2016 04:52
Last Modified:31 Aug 2016 04:52

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