Biodiversity could be solution

Unproductive land impacting operations


Pasture dieback has become a serious issue in Central Queensland and Agronomist Ross Newman said one of his clients had 2023 hectares of productive country affected. It has since spread to the Wide Bay Burnett. File Picture

Pasture dieback has become a serious issue in Central Queensland and Agronomist Ross Newman said one of his clients had 2023 hectares of productive country affected. It has since spread to the Wide Bay Burnett. File Picture

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An SBB agronomist is conducting pasture dieback trials.

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AN agronomist who has been studying pasture dieback for three years believes the problem can be overcome by increasing biodiversity within pastures. 

SBB Rockhampton Senior Agronomist Ross Newman first noticed the issue in bisset bluegrass three years ago and has seen it spread as far west as Moura since then.

He had it in his own small scale property and like many producers facing the problem he had tests done on the area which came back inconclusive.

He started doing his own trials and discovered that ploughing the paddock and planting barley back into it as a forage crop only affected it too.

When he began planting broadleaf herbs as fodder, than grass began to grow. 

He believes producers need to break the seed cycle in order to see some reprieve from the problem. 

“I believe it is a fungus of some description and believe we are seeing it because we have a monoculture of one species,” he said.

“What we see in the cropping system is when we have a monoculture of one crop we have a build up of organic matter and build up of disease. What I have observed in pasture is no different. 

“Even with leucaena we don’t have anything else apart from one species so there is no biodiversity there and as a result we see the pasture dieback, we see weeds come back into play and over a period of time that weed density builds up and grass starts appearing again.

“To me that’s an indication there is a breakdown of pathogens.” 

Mr Newman has spoken to experienced graziers and said the problem wasn’t new but was suddenly more noticeable as people had better grazing management and were looking at their pastures more intensely. 

But he said producers couldn’t afford to sit and wait for answers from department officials and should try different management practices in the mean time.

“Maybe we need to be putting down trials and looking at different management systems so by the time they have worked out what it is we might have some idea of how to fix it,” he said.

“With the cattle prices the way they are you can’t afford to have unproductive land.” 

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