University of Tasmania
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Evaluation of Dorycnium spp.\ as Alternative Forage Plants

posted on 2023-05-26, 09:37 authored by Davies, SR
The genus Dorycnium L. consists of a number of species of perennial leguminous shrubs known to be relatively drought tolerant. Low rainfall areas (i.e <600 mm annually) of Australia under agricultural use are subject to periods of feed shortage during summer and autumn, and hence animal production is limited at this time. Dorycnium spp. have been identified as having the potential to be integrated into Australian grazing systems as a source of forage when little or no other feed is available. This project was established to further investigate a number of key issues related to the agronomic and forage characteristics of this potentially important genus. Research was undertaken into Dorycnium spp. to examine three important factors associated with the evaluation of a legume, seed germination characteristics, the nutritional value of the forage, and rhizobial associations.\ \ Dorycnium hirsutum Ser. accessions TAS1002 and TAS2001 were subjected to a range of germination experiments examining the level of pod maturity, harvest season, and the effect of pre-germination treatments. The seed coat of D. hirsutum was found to influence germination behaviour, with the use of pre-germination scarification treatments improving germination behaviour by increasing the percentage germination (PG) and lowering the mean time to complete germination (MTG) and percentage hard seed. Mechanical scarification of TAS2001 for 20 seconds was found to increase (P<0.05) PG from 86 to 96 %, lower the MTG from 6.0 to 2.7 days, and reduce the percentage hard from 13.6 to 1.9 % in relation to untreated seed. Mechanical and chemical scarification techniques were found to be the most effective in promoting rapid and uniform germination, were simple to apply and were repeatable. In general, inherent differences in seed lot germination characteristics were believed to be associated with the influence of environmental factors and the natural characteristics of selected accessions with indeterminate flowering.\ \ Established plots of D. rectum Ser., D. hirsutum and D. pentaphyllum Scop. were sampled along with an area of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) on a regular basis throughout the spring/summer period of 2001/2002. Samples were analysed using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) and wet chemistry for crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and dry matter digestibility (DMD) and metabolisable energy (ME). Over the course of the sampling period forage of Dorycnium spp. generally displayed decreases in CP, ME, DMD and increases in NDF. Typical CP values ranged from 4 - 18 % of dry matter (DM), NDF 21 - 72 % of DM, DMD 32 - 75 %, and ME 4.1 - 11.0 MJ/Kg/DM. The nutritive value of Dorycnium spp. forage appeared to be influenced by environmental and developmental characteristics, with the growth stage identified as a useful tool for predicting forage quality. Although Dorycnium plants were of lower forage value than lucerne, their forage can provide livestock with an important source of nutrition in areas of low rainfall and during periods where there are feed gaps.\ \ Experimental plots of Dorycnium spp. at three Tasmanian sites were sampled every six weeks throughout the spring/summer period of 2002/2003 and analysed using a modified butanol-HCl method for condensed tannins (CT). The CT content of D. hirsutum was found to fluctuate from 3.2 to 16.6 % of the DM. Dorycnium rectum and D. pentaphyllum were found to contain CT levels of at least 7.7 and 6.8 % of DM respectively during the sampling period. The CT levels observed were considered to be high in general, with only D. hirsutum containing levels that may be considered to be low and possibly beneficial at certain stages of development. Increases in CT levels were associated with the initiation of flowering, and interactions between the environment and species were observed, although no common factor was identified as influencing CT levels.\ \ A glasshouse experiment was undertaken to assess the nitrogen fixing ability of the commercial Lotus corniculatus L. inoculant SU343 with Dorycnium spp. against a range of alternative inoculants. The host/rhizobia interactions of Dorycnium spp. along with six important pasture legumes and a range of inoculants was assessed. Strains WSM1284, WSM2323 and WSM2338, along with SU343 were found to be suitable inoculants for Dorycnium spp. examined. However, negative interactions between these inoculants and important pasture legumes were identified. Inoculant strains, WSM1284, WSM2323, WSM2338 and SU343 were selected to undergo evaluation under Tasmanian field conditions with D. hirsutum and D. rectum. In the field all strains were found to fix adequate amounts of atmospheric nitrogen. Inoculant SU343 was confirmed to be a suitable inoculant for D. rectum in terms of performance and commercial viability, however, WSM2338 and WSM1284 were found to be equally suitable. The inoculation of Dorycnium hirsutum with the Tasmanian isolate WSM2323, was found to be a significantly (P<0.05) superior strain to SU343 in terms of nitrogen fixation. The inoculation of D. hirsutum did not affect (P>0.05) plant DM production in the field. The ability of the inoculants to compete with a background population of root nodule bacteria was found to be of concern, and may have serious implications for the long-term performance from a single inoculation event. It was proposed that a combination of rhizobial strains may be more effective as a commercial inoculant rather than relying on the single L. corniculatus inoculant SU343.


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