Winter cropping in Western Australia (WA) is dominated by spring-type cereals and canola (Brassica napus L.) with no vernalisation requirement that are sown in late autumn (late April and May). With limited earlier sowing opportunities for later maturing winter-type crops in early autumn, farmers aiming to obtain some benefit from the grazing of crops (i.e. dual-purpose) must consider the grazing potential of spring types sown in late autumn. The aim of this study was to develop grazing guidelines for spring-type crops in WA that will limit the potential for grain yield losses. In order to determine the recovery response of spring-type crops to grazing intensity and timing, 59 time-of-cutting × height-of-cutting experiments were conducted throughout the south-western region of WA in 2012. Experiments were conducted on spring types of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), canola and oats (Avena sativa L.). Multi-site analysis showed that treatments simulating high-intensity ‘crash’ grazing to ground level or to a height of 5 cm reduced grain yield unless conducted early in vegetative growth before reproductive stages. Treatments simulating ‘clip’ grazing by removing only the top 5–10 cm of crop foliage reduced grain yield to a lesser extent than crash grazing, and in several instances could extend the safe cutting period past hollow stem (Zadoks growth stage 30) and/or the end of July for cereals, or past mid-July for spring canola, provided the developing reproductive parts of all crops were not damaged. On average, the amounts of biomass removed by clip grazing without yield penalty were 0.4, 0.3, 0.5 and 0.3 t ha–1 for barley, wheat, oats and canola and were similar to those removed by earlier, safe crash grazing. These represent significant amounts of forage and suggest that clip grazing of spring-type crops may be an approach suited to WA cropping and grazing systems.
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Vol. 66 • No. 4