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Effect of stubble height and irrigation management on the growth, botanical composition and persistence of perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and chicory swards in cool-temperate Tasmania

Langworthy, Adam D., Rawnsley, Richard P., Freeman, Mark J., Corkrey, Ross, Pembleton, Keith G., Harrison, Matthew T., Lane, Peter A., Henry, David A.
Crop & pasture science 2019 v.70 no.2 pp. 169-182
Cichorium intybus, Festuca arundinacea, Lolium perenne, botanical composition, chicory, deficit irrigation, defoliation, irrigation rates, milk production, pastures, profitability, stubble, sward, Tasmania
The profitability of dairying in south-eastern Australia can be improved by increasing pasture production during summer–autumn, when growth rates for the existing perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) feedbase are low. A study undertaken in cool-temperate north-west Tasmania examined the effect of stubble height and irrigation management on swards of perennial ryegrass, continental (summer-active) tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) and chicory (Cichorium intybus L.). Irrigation treatments included full irrigation (~20mm applied at every 20mm precipitation deficit), deficit irrigation (~20mm applied at alternate full-irrigation events) and rainfed (no irrigation). All species achieved greater summer–autumn yields when repeatedly defoliated to stubble heights of 35 or 55mm than when defoliated to 115mm, irrespective of irrigation treatment. Swards were managed under a common defoliation schedule of nine defoliation events in 12 months. Under full irrigation, second-year tall fescue achieved a greater summer–autumn yield than perennial ryegrass (by 10%, or 0.7 t DM ha-1), highlighting the potential role of tall fescue in north-west Tasmania. This was further demonstrated by the high marginal irrigation water-use index values (1.6–2.7 t DM ML-1) of tall fescue. By contrast, summer–autumn growth achieved by chicory was less than or equal to perennial ryegrass.