Cranbrook's Milton Vineyard trial site for new pasture project

INVESTIGATING PASTURE OPTIONS: Lead researcher Dr Rowan Smith is trialling pasture resilience for East Coast farmers. Picture: Supplied
INVESTIGATING PASTURE OPTIONS: Lead researcher Dr Rowan Smith is trialling pasture resilience for East Coast farmers. Picture: Supplied

Known more for its wool grazing and wine grape production, Tasmania’s East Coast is set to become a trial site for a new project to improve the state’s pasture productivity and sustainability.

Set up at the award-winning Cranbrook vineyard and sheep property, Milton Vineyard, the project is jointly run by Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resource Management South.

Institute research fellow Dr Rowan Smith is leading the project to identify a perennial legume that thrives in the East Coast’s dryland wool grazing environment.

“The East Coast of Tasmania is an important wool-producing region that has unique challenges that are unlike those experienced by wool producers in the Midlands region,” Dr Smith said.

One of these differences is the East Coast’s rainfall pattern.

“The summer rain opens up opportunities for different types of pasture plants. For example, our studies have found that winter-active cocksfoot is well-suited to the Midlands but less suited to the East Coast where summer-active cocksfoot thrives better,” Dr Smith said.

“We are trying to find a legume for pastures that grows year round to provide cover and is more resilient.’’

The institute has previously researched perennial grass and annual legume options in the area, but found there was a lack of perennial legumes in the pasture, Dr Smith said.

“We saw this gap in the system as an opportunity to undertake further research to make a positive impact for local producers. Legumes are a high-quality source of animal feed and can lead to increased overall pasture productivity,” he said.

The benefits of finding a legume include better cover, reduced erosion and weeds and more resilient pasture.

Around 20 cultivars, including the deep-rooted Talish clover, stoloniferous red clover and variegated lucerne, will be trialled in the quarter-hectare plot at Milton Vineyard.

NRM South Regional Landcare facilitator Holly Hansen said the project included input from local producers.

“The project is really farmer-focused and we have embedded a collaborative approach from the beginning of the project to ensure the research outcomes are applicable and highly relevant,” Ms Hansen said.

The trial site is being prepared before being sown in August. The first stage of the project has been funded through the National Landcare Programme and Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture for two years, with the institute committing to monitor data collected at the site for five years.