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Direct seeding of chenopod shrubs for saltland and rangeland environments

Nichols, P.G.H., Yates, R.J., Loo, C., Wintle, B.J., Stevens, J.C., Titterington, J.W., Moore, G., Dixon, K. and Barrett-Lennard, E.G. (2014) Direct seeding of chenopod shrubs for saltland and rangeland environments. Future Farm Industries CRC



There are currently two ways of establishing chenopod shrubs: sowing from seed using a niche seeder, or planting nursery-raised seedlings with a tree planter. Planting seedlings is the more reliable method, but is relatively expensive (in excess of $450 per hectare). On the other hand, direct seeding using the specialised “niche seeder” is much less expensive ($100-150 per hectare), but is also less reliable. This project aimed to investigate alternative methods of direct seeding chenopod shrubs for saltland and rangeland areas by developing a greater understanding of their seed biology and agronomic requirements. Our aspiration was that shrubs should be established using more conventional farm machinery. This bulletin reports on a combination of seed biology and agronomic research to develop reliable, low-cost direct seeding options for chenopod shrubs. Experiments into the impact of changing environmental conditions on seeds were studied in the laboratory, and field experiments were conducted to test the applicability of these insights in the field using conventional modified farm seeding machinery. As a result of this work, a successful direct seeding package using farm seeding equipment (modified for wide row spacings and depth control) was developed for Atriplex nummularia (old man saltbush), the most widely planted saltbush species across southern Australia. The nine key elements of the package are: 1. Select suitable paddocks for introduction of new shrubs 2. Prepare a weed-free seedbed using two knockdown herbicide applications (4-6 weeks and 1-2 weeks before seeding) and commence control of rabbits and kangaroos 3. Sow the best seed, by ensuring: a. Large fruits, with a high proportion of viable seeds, have been selected b. Seed is of subspecies nummularia (not subsp. spathulata) c. Fruits have been harvested within the previous six months and stored in a cool, dry environment d. Bracts are retained around the seeds 4. Sow into moisture in late winter - early spring (depending on district) a. If the area to be sown is waterlogged, defer sowing until later in spring b. If insufficient soil moisture, defer sowing until the following year 5. Use a sowing rate of ~10 fruits/m (if germination rate is 15%) to provide at least one plant for every 2 m of row; use higher rates for seed of lower germination 6. Set the seeder up to sow into furrows with trailing press wheels 7. Sow to a depth of 5-10 mm (very critical) 8. Control weeds and pests (insects, mites, kangaroos and rabbits) 9. Defer grazing until seedlings are well established This establishment method has also been shown to work for Rhagodia preissii (mallee saltbush). This project was not able to develop reliable direct seeding packages for other Atriplex species, including A. amnicola and A. undulata. Further work is needed to understand the triggers for their germination, before these species can be direct-seeded with conventional machinery. Direct sowing of M. brevifolia and M. pyramidata appears to be problematic in much of southern Australia, due to their requirement for temperatures >30°C for germination, which do not occur within the normal winter growing season. An exception to this would be areas with more reliable summer rainfall, such as northern New South Wales, where sowing could be deferred until late spring-early summer. An alternative strategy for establishing M. brevifolia, is to encourage natural recruitment of seedlings from seed produced on surrounding bushes (if it is already present in the area), or to transplant a low density of nursery-raised seedlings, which could then act as a seed source for natural recruitment (if it is not already present).

Item Type: Report
Series Name: Technical Report. Future Farm Industries CRC. No. 10
Publisher: Future Farm Industries CRC
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