A new variety of a forage legume that can significantly reduce supplementary feeding of sheep in summer and autumn and boost on-farm productivity has been officially launched in Western Australia today.
The drought-tolerant perennial legume is the first cultivar of tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var albomarginata) to be bred for Australian conditions.
Meat & Livestock Australia, the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Future Farm Industries CRC, and AgriFutures Australia primarily developed the new variety, which has now been licensed to Landmark’s seed business Seednet for commercial release to industry in 2019 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 Program Manager – Value Chain Research, Development & Adoption Dr David Beatty said the new tedera cultivar provides a new pasture tool for sheep producers to help boost on-farm productivity and profitability.
“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 is currently supporting the development of an agronomy package for the new cultivar, which is essential for successful producer adoption.
Research into the new variety was led by Dr 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 has 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. 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," Dr Real said.
Dr Real said tedera’s ability to produce seed is also an important quality, and one that is necessary for successful commercialisation.
The new tedara variety was officially launched on the WA wheatbelt farm of David Brown, ‘Bidgeerabbie’, Dandaragan.
Mr Brown, who has grown 22 hectares of tedera under contract for Seednet in 2018 and also been involved in trials run by Dr Real, sees tedera’s potential in its ability to stay green during the dry season.
“There is a definite place for it to provide a bridge in summer feeding, and we’ve been very interested in its progress in that respect. It would give a valuable alternative to driving around with a feed cart," Mr Brown said.
Mr Brown has tested his sheep on tedera and said the sheep loved it.
“They certainly eat it. It’s very palatable.”