Growing hopes for new legume

By Country News

A new variety of a forage legume that can significantly reduce supplementary feeding of sheep in summer and autumn and boost on-farm productivity was officially launched recently.

The drought-tolerant perennial legume is the first cultivar of tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var albomarginata) to be bred for Australian conditions.

Meat & Livestock Australia, Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Future Farm Industries CRC and AgriFutures Australia developed the new variety, which has now been licensed to Landmarks seed business Seednet for commercial release to industry next year under the Dyna-Gro Seed label.

Tedera is native to the Canary Islands, Spain, where it is a traditional forage species for livestock including dairy goats, sheep and cattle, and is found in environments with an average annual rainfall of 150mm to 300mm.

MLA Value Chain Research, Development and Adoption program manager David Beatty attended the launch.

‘‘The profitability and sustainability of livestock businesses in the Mediterranean climates of southern Australia is constrained by the quantity and quality of the forage available over summer, autumn and early winter, and tedera was identified as a potential new forage species to fill that feed-gap,’’ Dr Beatty said.

‘‘An important attribute of tedera is that unlike lucerne, it retains its leaves when moisture-stressed, providing valuable, out-of-season high-quality forage.

‘‘The development of the new tedera cultivar aligns with the Sheep Industry Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which identified both the need to develop new plant cultivars to adapt to climate variability, and increase livestock productivity through new technologies to boost pasture production.

‘‘The new cultivar is particularly suited to WA’s northern wheatbelt. However, other lines may be progressed to market that can tolerate more frost-prone regions, such as southern NSW.’’

Dr Beatty said MLA was currently supporting the development of an agronomy package for the new cultivar, which was essential for successful producer adoption.

Research into the new variety was led by Daniel Real, a forage research officer from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Dr Real said a three-pronged research approach that included animal health, grazing and agronomy trials had shown tedera’s worth in environments with dry summers and autumns.

‘‘It can be used to extend the growing season into late spring and early summer,’’ Dr Real said.

‘‘It can also reduce or eliminate the need for expensive hand-feeding of grain and hay to sheep to fill the feed gap during the dry season in southern Australian farming systems.’’

He said tedera’s ability to produce seed was also an important quality, and one that was necessary for successful commercialisation.