NORTHERN beef producers searching for ways to extend their pasture production season and provide some insurance against extreme dry conditions may find the answer in Progardes, a perennial tropical legume blend with proven performance in drought conditions.
Because of its extensive taproot – more than a metre long in mature plants – Progardes can access soil moisture well beyond the shallow root systems of pasture grass species. This allows it to stay green and productive once these grasses start haying off.
This prolongs the availability of high-quality forage and allows animals to maintain condition longer than on a dry grass-only pasture.
Its drought resistance and persistence is also due to its mass production of seed, especially hard seed, which enables it to survive drought and then regenerate afterwards via a substantial soil seed bank.
It is highly palatable and has an excellent nutrition profile, with up to 20 per cent crude protein, and tolerates heavy grazing due to its low growing crown.
Being a legume, Progardes fixes atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, which in turn improves the soil nutrient profile and the performance of the surrounding grass pasture species.
The current commercial blend is compatible with native pastures such as Mitchell, Flinders and blue grasses, as well as introduced species such as buffel.
Desmanthus seedlings have been shown to thrive even at soil surface temperatures of 63° C.
Progardes has established well in areas as diverse as western Qld Downs and gidgee country, the Brigalow in CQ, the Northern Territory, and from the Gulf plains in the north as far down as Tamworth in the south.
It prefers neutral to alkaline clay soils and will do well in rainfall zones anywhere from 450mm upwards.
The CRC for Northern Australia has recognised the potential of Progardes for the northern beef industry and has awarded Agrimix Pastures and its extended team funding to gain a deeper understanding of optimal establishment methods for Progardes in the north.