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Successfully Establishing Phalaris

The inclusion of phalaris in a pasture mix provides competition with a wider range of weeds, while reducing the incidence of some metabolic diseases in livestock, compared to where legumes are dominant.  However, all too often phalaris establishment fails through lack of planning and preparation.

Once established, phalaris is a competitive and persistent pasture species. However as a seedling, phalaris is relatively uncompetitive, being easily outcompeted by weeds such as capeweed, wireweed, ryegrass and toadrush.

Successful establishment of phalaris requires long-term planning to ensure that competition from weeds is minimised during the establishment year.  Clean paddocks allow phalaris to be sown earlier, which enables seedlings to become better established before winter conditions slow plant growth.

Following are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when planning to sow phalaris pastures:

  • Plan two to three years ahead and focus on minimising the population of problem weeds within the paddock.  Wireweed, capeweed and ryegrass are the most common causes of failure.
  • Where ryegrass is the dominant weed, undersowing following a break crop such as canola may be more successful.
  • Manage the paddock to minimise the amount of crop residue present at the time of sowing.
  • For undersown pastures, select a cover crop or variety that matures early.  This reduces competition with the new pasture later during spring.
  • Aim to sow phalaris into a firm seedbed.
  • Disc seeders have been observed to do a superior job sowing phalaris.
  • Aim to sow early into warm soils with good soil moisture, but ideally after an early germination of weeds have been controlled with a knockdown herbicide.
  • Ensure appropriate strategies are in place to manage insects.
  • Where broadleaf weeds such as capeweed or wireweed are present, act early to control these weeds with appropriate herbicides.  Control of these weeds is generally expensive and not 100% successful, but leaving them uncontrolled has the potential to result in pasture failure.
  • Except in the event of a wet spring and summer, new phalaris pastures are best left un-grazed until after the following autumn break.
  • Once the pasture is established, phalaris is best managed with rotational grazing strategies that provide long rest periods which allow pasture recovery.
  • Grazing management can be used to manipulate the balance between phalaris and clover within the pasture.  Heavy grazing during summer and autumn will allow clover to become more dominant.  Allowing phalaris to grow and set seed during spring, followed by lighter autumn grazing, will favour phalaris.
  • In a balanced phalaris legume pasture, regular applications of Single Super will significantly improve pasture growth.