Grass-roots community organisation that aims to improve the natural condition of the Derwent catchment

Pasture Bites series: phalaris

Phalaris is a great example of a resource that offers a lot, but one that is not used a lot.

It comes with questions and some concerns.

It also comes with other things that mean it should not be lightly dismissed: drought tolerance, grub tolerance, perenniality, persistence and production in low-rainfall environments. All these points are high on a pasture manager’s wishlist.

As for the cautions and concerns, these centre around fears of toxicities and stock deaths. Sometimes these fears can become reality, but equally there are known risk factors that can be managed successfully. Indeed, phalaris is one of the most widely sown pasture grasses in south-east Australia.

Like so many good things, some investment is required to realise the benefits.

For phalaris, that investment is in understanding the plant, understanding the risks and, importantly, the management strategies that can remove or minimise those risks.

For grazing phalaris, this may mean understanding the different toxicity syndromes that can be encountered, understanding the role of cobalt in managing phalaris staggers, understanding the role that pasture growth stage and pasture composition have in diluting toxic effects, and understanding the role of managed grazing to allow adaptation to new feed sources and avoid high intake by hungry stock.

This understanding of management challenges sits alongside the understanding of benefits.

Phalaris does have benefits. It can grow, be productive and survive to grow again where many plants will not. As a permanent pasture component, it will provide groundcover and a backbone that holds a system together.

Phalaris is worth learning about. And the risks require perspective.

In reality risks and costs apply to everything. Like ryegrass, clover, Lucerne, lambing, calving, living. All require some good understanding for good outcomes, and all come with risks of adverse consequences.

Shared understanding of research, practical experiences and best recommendations will be a strong feature of the Derwent Pasture Network as the opportunities for improvement are addressed.

For more information on phalaris or to provide feedback about your experience utilising phalaris please contact Peter Ball from the Derwent Catchment Project at peter@derwentcatchment.org.

This program is funded by NRM South through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Derwent Catchment Project

PO Box 22 Hamilton TAS 7140  |  Phone (03) 6286 3211  |  facilitator@derwentcatchment.org