E.J. WESTON1, J.A. DOUGHTON2, R.C. DALAL4, W.M. STRONG3, G.A. THOMAS5, K.J. LEHANE1, J.C. COOPER3, A.J. KING5 and C.J. HOLMES5
1DPI, Farming Systems Institute, Tor St, Toowoomba
3Leslie Research Centre, Toowoomba
4DNR, Indooroopilly, Brisbane, and
5Leslie Research Centre, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Ley farming (pastures in rotation with crops) is a traditional management strategy for sustainable farming, used for centuries in temperate and Mediterranean areas of the world. For nearly 50 years, it has been the subject of research, development and extension in the subtropics of southern inland Queensland.
The apparent slow rate of adoption of ley pastures as a means of maintaining or restoring soil fertility, particularly amongst those with mixed grain and livestock enterprises, has been a concern to people involved in these studies. The reasons are not clearly identified but are most likely to be factors such as short-term profitability of rotations involving livestock, management complexity of leys, reluctance to change, looking to easier options, availability of non-degraded lands, and bloat fears with temperate legumes. Growers are, however, aware of fertility decline and that many of their paddocks have reached an age when restorative practices are required if wheat yields and proteins are to be maintained. Most recent trends show increasing areas of ley pasture.
This paper highlights the contribution legume-based ley pastures can make to soil fertility in southern Queensland and some of the important management issues related to crop-pasture rotations.