You are here

Native Perennial Pasture journey

Posted in: 
Sustainable Agriculture

Newdegate's Nick Kelly has begun his native perennial pasture journey by planting kangaroo grass, Themeda triandra. It was sown on 25 March 2023 with serradella. The seradella has germinated, but as kangaroo grass is a winter dormant species there is little showing at moment, with an expectation there will be more noticeable results when it warms up in Spring. Nick had to source the seeds from a company in the east which created some quarantine challenges and its comparatively expensive at $1000 for 500g.

Key points -Themeda triandra, more commonly known as kangaroo grass

• Grows in tufts up to 1.5m high, and 0.5m wide, flowers in summer, perfumed. with grey-green leaves in winter that turn red brown in summer

• Grows across Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific • Found all over Australia • Mainly grows in grasslands and open woodlands in Australia • Found on a wide range of soils and is drought tolerant • Not considered endangered • Does not do well under HEAVY grazing pressure • Benefits from the occasional fire

• Has traditional food and medicine uses in Australia and Africa • Indigenous Australians have made bread and string from it for at least 30,000 years • Bread was made by grinding seeds to make flour or porridge • Was replaced by introduced pasture in early days as it was readily grazed out • Young growth is especially palatable to livestock

• A research project by La Trobe University, Bendigo in partnership with the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clans Corporation, which has received a $1.82 million Federal Government grant to research the viability of growing kangaroo grass, has found tussocks over 50 years of age (

• Several advantages of plant over introduced cereal crops: o Survives on farming depleted land o Drought resistant o Tolerates extreme temperature changes o Perennial o Assists restoring degraded grasslands o Has 40% more protein than traditional bread grains o Growth shape protects the soil and create ecosystem • Can be grown from seed or division of clumps but division is not practical

• Germination can be a challenge as up to 2/3 up seeds collected are infertile • Can be planted 15mm deep or mulched if whole flower head used • Does not transplant well • Seeds usually ripen in early December/January • Ripening controlled by temperature and available soil moisture • Ripening not uniform in seed head • Fresh seed 30% germination • 9 month old 60% germination • 17 month old ~80% germination • Can be established by direct seeding, tube stock or seed bearing hay • Seed cleaning is not difficult, but lots of trash processed to seed obtained. • Mostly germinates mid-summer to early autumn, autumn good sowing time • Seed should be planted about 20mm apart—50g seed/100m drill row gives that density • Kangaroo grass seedlings are very slow growers and can be overgrown by annual grasses/weeds. This can be managed by mowing sown area, or grazing, to manage

• Mainly grown in summer, generally dormant in winter • Known for its deep root systems • Preferentially grazed by horses and cattle when green • Sheep and cattle graze heavily • Highly palatable to stock crude protein 13.5%DM and digestibility 61.3% DM (DM=dry matter) • Need to insist on certificate of purity and germination • Grows slowly in first few seasons • Need to be protected for 12 months, preferably 24 months before grazing of any sort for a more robust plant long term

• Pictures creative commons license