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Irrigation guidelines for mixed pastures and lucerne
Expanded Title:Sustainable pasture production requires optimal nutrient, water and defoliation management practices in order to attain good yield and forage quality. The basic understanding of the water requirements and drivers of irrigated pasture production systems, are essential for the development of sound water management strategies. Pasture systems, however are highly complex involving interactions between crop growth, soil and plant nutrient dynamics, and livestock and pasture management systems. This project focussed on mixed pastures which either included the subtropical kikuyu pasture oversown with a temperate grass, or a temperate grass mixed with a temperate legume. The two most important legume species evaluated in this project included lucerne and white clover. Considering temporal and spatial complexity, it is difficult to evaluate an entire system with short-term monitoring experiments. Development of site specific optimal irrigation management practices requires costly long-term trials. Since it is expensive and impractical to test multiple irrigation application strategies, this project has focussed on synthesizing on-station and on-farm data together with fragmented historical data and the use of empirical models to provide a better understanding of the behaviour of different pasture systems and to identify and develop tools and general guidelines in order to increase water use efficiency at farm level. In evaluating various pasture treatments and production systems, it was imperative to assess a few important plant growth parameters to understand the effects of irrigation and defoliation on pasture production. With respect to defoliation, two approaches were taken during this study. (a) One approach was to monitor pasture under well managed conditions which included mechanical harvesting, representing at least a 90 % defoliation rate and a hay production system. (b) The second approach was to monitor pasture treatments under a grazing system to represent on-farm practices. Currently, satellite-based remote sensing is showing promising results in estimating irrigation requirements of many crops. In the near future, this technology could become a more affordable tool for managing irrigations of pastures. The accuracy of the technology for pasture management will hereby be assessed. This can therefore inform any potential future use of this technology for real time irrigation scheduling for pasture management. Pasture systems are highly temporal and spatially complex, as they involve interactions amongst crop growth, nutrient dynamics between soil, plant and animal and pasture management systems. Hence, it is difficult to evaluate the whole system with short-term monitoring experiments. Development of site-specific pasture and irrigation management practices requires costly long-term trials. It is expensive and impractical to test multiple irrigation and other pasture management strategies in all pasture growing areas. Models can be used to extrapolate research findings (irrigation and other pasture management requirements) to pasture growing areas. Models can also be helpful in selecting best management practices for specific sites and environmental conditions. From literature it is evident that there are knowledge gaps regarding the pasture crop growth responses to management practices in relation to the amount of water used. There also exists a lack of data and reliable information pertaining to water requirements of valuable pasture legumes. Methods to address these gaps, therefore, need to be devised and applied in order to increase water use efficiency of important irrigated pasture crops at farm level.
Date Published:01/12/2016
Document Type:Research Report
Document Subjects:Agricultural Water - Small holder irrigation
Document Keywords:Environment
Document Format:Report
Document File Type:pdf
Research Report Type:Technical
WRC Report No:TT 697/16
ISBN No:978-1-4312-0839-5
Authors:Truter W; Sehoole O; Murphy M; Fessehazion M; Annandale J; Jarmain C; Dlamini M; Everson C
Project No:K5/2173
Organizations:University of KwaZuIu-Natal; University of Pretoria; Stellenbosch University
Document Size:5 523 KB
Related Documents:Water use and crop parameters of pastures for livestock grazing management
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