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Lotononis
(Lotononis bainesii)

Calopo - illustration  
  • for moist subtropics
  • frost-tolerant
  • very palatable
  • needs heavy grazing to persist.
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    Lotononis cv. Miles is the most frost-resistant of all the commercially available tropical legumes, and grows well in most subtropical climates of northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland receiving more than 900 mm of annual rainfall.

    It prefers sandy soils, but is also found on heavier textured soils, being tolerant of poor drainage and acid conditions. It was originally grown on the infertile wallum soils where it showed great variation in production from year to year; later it was planted successfully on granitic forest soils in the drier coastal hills where it is less vigorous, but more reliable.

    Lotononis is a slender, smooth, soft plant with low stems which root at the joints. It provides good-quality feed as it has high digestibility.

    It starts production early in spring and flowers before Christmas, when the sward is best grazed lightly to a height of about 10 cm. If allowed to accumulate foliage into full summer, lotononis is frequently attacked by leaf fungus (Rhizoctonia) causing a sudden collapse of the lush sward. It may recover in the cooler weather in autumn, but often behaves as an annual plant, being replaced by natural seedling regeneration.

    Grazing should be lenient in spring and early summer to allow flowering and seeding, and then heavy in mid- to late-summer to keep herbage grasses check and to allow seedlings to regenerate. This may be difficult given the normal patterns of feed availability in spring and summer, but can work well if integrated with siratro-based pastures which can be grazed heavily in spring and rested in late summer.

    Lotononis seeds are very small, about half the size of white clover seed, and should be surface sown, often in autumn, then rolled with a rubber-tyred roller. Sowing rates of 100-500 g per ha are adequate, but seed must be inoculated with specific rhizobium.

    The delicate seedlings, which look different from those of other legumes, need extended wet periods during establishment, and they develop buried crowns if exposed to plenty of light. Seedlings are slow for a few months, but soon creep to colonise the open spaces in the sward.

    Lotononis is one of the few legumes to combine well with pangola grass, but it has also been grown with a variety of both tall and creeping grasses if they are heavily grazed. It responds well to improved nutrition.

    Creator: Ian Partridge
    Date created: 18 Mar 1998  Revised: 15 January 2003
     

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