Optimise legumes and pasture

The recently launched Legumes Hub focuses on five key ways that legumes could benefit the Australian red meat industry. Photo by Jeanette Severs

A website has been created to help producers and advisers optimise their legume and pasture performance, along with improving livestock productivity.

Developed by Meat & Livestock Australia, the Legumes Hub will also provide helpful insights and troubleshooting tips for producers.

“The Legumes Hub will help producers assess their legume pastures, it can also help identify the leading reasons for possible legume decline and what management practices are available to address these limitations,” MLA’s Michael Crowley said.

The Legumes Hub will focus on five key ways that legumes could benefit the Australian red meat industry.

More feed, less fertiliser

Legumes form an important, symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. This enables plants to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere through their root system and make it available to other pasture species.

“The nitrogen fixed by legumes boosts the performance of pasture grasses to produce higher quality and quantity of dry matter, providing a consistent, nutritious source of feed for livestock,” Mr Crowley said.

Faster weight gains and healthier animals

Another strong benefit for the red meat industry is that legume pastures provide palatable, digestible, high protein feed for livestock.

Legumes in the pasture can extend the period of high-quality green feed when feed quality from grasses is lacking.

“This gives producers a more reliable and flexible feed for meeting market specifications year-round,” Mr Crowley said.

A more resilient feedbase

Incorporating legumes also bolsters resilience to climatic variations and seasonal changes. If looked after properly, some legume varieties can last up to 10 years.

“Legumes will rebound quickly following drought-breaking rainfall,” Mr Crowley said.

“This is due to their deeper root systems and capacity to produce sufficient seed for regeneration, even under adverse growing conditions — a truly resilient arsenal for producers across Australia.”

An ally against dieback

Annual legumes like arrowleaf clover and biserrula, as well as perennial forage legumes like leucaena and desmanthus, are resistant to dieback.

“Trials have shown that adding moderate rates of nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser and then re-sowing dieback-affected areas with legumes reliably improved plant biomass,” Mr Crowley said.

“In addition, re-sowing with a combination of legume and pasture grass species can help in increasing feed available for cattle specifically.”

Towards carbon neutral 2030

Finally, legumes can play a pivotal role in capturing carbon and reducing emissions on-farm.

They contain different levels of useful compounds such as condensed tannins that assist animal production and can reduce livestock methane emissions.

For more information, visit the MLA website.