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Establishing Cowpower® in Pastures

General information

A well-prepared fine tilth seedbed is recommended followed by shallow sowing into good soil moisture.

Planting legume seed directly into grass or into a poorly prepared seedbed such as a roughly disturbed soil through blade ploughing is not recommended. Dropping legume seed directly into established grass pasture is not recommended as it's a high risk operation with low success rates for establishment. (DAF Qld.)

However desmanthus has been successfully established over time through cattle ingestion of desmanthus seed which was deposited in cowpats into existing pastures.

Soil types

Desmanthus (Desmanthus sp) is a summer-growing legume adapted to neutral to alkaline, medium and heavy-clay soils in the drier subtropical environment. (DAF Qld.) Country description suitable for Cowpower desmanthus ranges from poplar box/false sandalwood through scrub soils to alluvial river flats and open downs. Both brigalow and gidgee country suit very well as do basaltic uplands. Sandy cypress country is not recommended for desmanthus, nor the granite derived soils or mulga soils.

Seed preparation

Desmanthus seed is naturally hard coated and is treated with scarification as required. DAF Qld. recommends application of inoculant to seed prior to planting. Cowpower desmanthus seed that is to be added to dry licks requires little scarifying as the seed will lie dormant and weather, allowing it to germinate when favourable conditions occur.

Sowing rates

  • For MECHANICAL PLANTING INTO WELL PREPARED SEEDBEDS 3kgs of Cowpower seed per hectare is recommended.
  • For FEED MIXES or DRY LICK APPLICATIONS Use 250 grams per 100kgs not recommended for urea based licks.

Introducing Cowpower into existing pastures through dry lick

Cowpower desmanthus has 300,000 seeds per kg. Mixing 250grams of Cowpower* seed with 100kgs dry lick gives 75,000 seeds per 100kgs. The cowpat gives starting protection from weed and grass competition and gives a fertile base for the Cowpower plants which emerge later after a rain event. 

  • 1 litre of Cowpower seed weighs 1 kilogram so measuring seed amounts is easily done with a measuring jug.

Dieback recovery

Successful pasture establishment following a pasture dieback wipeout has been made by a Central Qld grazing business. This business is firmly of the opinion that pasture dieback is caused by fungi, and the fungi which causes pasture dieback probably originated from funded projects for the biological control of giant rat’s tail grass.

Their pasture dieback recovery findings after 5 years of trials:

  • They work the dieback affected country with big offsets when the soil is still wet leaving it rough.
  • Then they aerially apply a fungicide treated seed mixture – silk sorghum, purple pigeon, Rhodes grasses and desmanthus - and let the following rain wash it in for germination. They found that there is much less weed infestation this way than with planting into a fine seedbed.
  • 1kg/hectare of fungicide treated mixed seed per hectare was used and 250grams of the seed mix was desmanthus. The seed was coated with the registered fungicide Pontiac prior to planting. They have found that this is the key to success.
  • Soils Ph and fertility are important factors in the ability of grasses to withstand dieback and should be known.
  • Fire could be a factor in Dieback management. They consider that occasional fire assists in the ability of grasses to uptake zinc which is an important pasture health factor. Constant repetitive trash blanketing in cropping and cane and heavy pasture carry-over in grazing is reducing zinc uptake capacity and thus weakening the grasses’ ability to withstand fungal attack. Fire may also be a direct factor in fungal control.
  • Rotational grazing is applied for pasture rest to best promote further seeding from established plants.

Paddocks previously cropped being converted to pastures

The chances of good establishment improve if sub-soil moisture is good at sowing.  Aim for a minimum of 50-60 cm of wet soil under the seedbed. An example suggestion is given for planting a paddock of bambatsi grass and Cowpower desmanthus; this is to plant each in strips separately. Neither bambatsi grass nor desmanthus compete well with other plants immediately after emergence. Planting three strip widths of bambatsi to one strip width of Cowpower across the paddock will allow better establishment of each. Leave it unstocked in the first summer to allow seed to mature. Then stock the paddocks in autumn to begin Cowpower seed ingestion and spread throughout the paddock.

Introducing Cowpower into existing pastures

This is being done in run-down buffel paddocks by planting in strips after spraying out and cultivating the strips for a well prepared seed bed.

Overall recommendation for general pasture paddocks.

  1. Establish a small Cowpower plot in a fenced off area near a watering point or in laneways. Manage the stock entry to allow grazing entry and exit when seedpods are ripe and;
  2. Provide cattle Cowpower* seed through feed mixes or dry lick inclusion at recommended rates. (Inclusion of urea is not recommended)

This two-pronged approach is a low cost method that will provide ongoing seed introduction and Cowpower establishment over time as seasons allow.

*Cowpower Dry Lick

Cow pat germination

Cowpower germinating in cow pats at Morinish, QLD