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Performance and weed-suppressive potential of selected pasture legumes against annual weeds in south-eastern Australia

Latif, Sajid, Gurusinghe, Saliya, Weston, Paul A., Brown, William B., Quinn, Jane C., Piltz, John W., Weston, Leslie A.
Crop & pasture science 2019 v.70 no.2 pp. 147-158
Biserrula pelecinus, Medicago sativa, Ornithopus compressus, Trifolium subterraneum, Trifolium vesiculosum, acid soils, alfalfa, annual pastures, annual weeds, biomass, climate, cultivars, farming systems, field experimentation, forage legumes, herbicide-resistant weeds, input costs, mixed stands, rain, soil acidification, stand establishment, weed control, New South Wales
Mixed farming systems have traditionally incorporated subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) and lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) as key components of the pasture phase across south-eastern Australia. However, poor adaptation of subterranean clover to acidic soils, insufficient and inconsistent rainfall, high input costs, soil acidification and the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds have reduced efficacy of some traditional clover species in recent years. To overcome these challenges, numerous novel pasture species have been selectively improved and released for establishment in Australia. Despite their suitability to Australian climate and soils, limited knowledge exists regarding their weed-suppressive ability in relation to establishment and regeneration. Field trials were therefore conducted over 3 years in New South Wales to evaluate the suppressive potential of selected pasture legume species and cultivars as monocultures and in mixed stands against dominant annual pasture weeds. Pasture and weed biomass varied significantly between pasture species when sown as monocultures, but mixtures of several species did not differ with regard to establishment and subsequent weed infestation. Arrowleaf clover (T. vesiculosum Savi.) and biserrula (Biserrula pelecinus L.) cv. Casbah showed improved stand establishment, with higher biomass and reduced weed infestation compared with other pasture species. Generally, weed suppression was positively correlated with pasture biomass; however, yellow serradella (Ornithopus compressus L.) cv. Santorini exhibited greater weed suppression than other pasture legumes while producing lower biomass, thereby suggesting a mechanism other than competition for resources affecting weed-suppressive ability. Over the period 2015–17, arrowleaf clover and biserrula cv. Casbah were generally the most consistent annual pasture legumes with respect to yearly regeneration and suppression of annual pasture weed species.