Farmers search for better kikuyu

Professor Roger Dawkins said it was likely kikuyu with superior characteristics was present on farms in the Peel region.
Camera IconProfessor Roger Dawkins said it was likely kikuyu with superior characteristics was present on farms in the Peel region. Credit: Nic Ellis

A group of dairy and beef farmers have joined the C.Y. O’Connor ERADE Village Foundation to identify strains of kikuyu grass suited to the Peel region that would provide better quality feed for livestock.

Keysbrook dairy farmer Rob Giura said kikuyu was the most widespread summer pasture species used by farmers on the coastal plain because of its capacity to send its roots down up to 2m to access subsurface moisture.

Its persistence enabled it to take advantage of summer rainfall.

Farmers would still welcome varieties with higher energy content that were more digestible and palatable to cattle.

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Foundation chairman and research director Professor Roger Dawkins said initial genetic testing of specimens from the region showed genetic diversity had developed from the initial plantings sourced from east Africa in the 1920s.

It was apparent that the grass had adapted to climate and soil conditions in different locations and it was likely plants with superior characteristics were present on farms in the region.

Mr Giura asked farmers who had noticed kikuyu pastures or individual plants performing differently to their neighbours to contact the foundation so it could take samples.

“We have already identified some plants which seem to be able to access soil moisture more readily than surrounding plants,” he said.

“We are looking for more examples and also individual plants or pastures that are preferred (or shunned) by grazing cattle.”

The research project will involve genetic testing of specimens using the foundation’s proprietary BACD technology, growing selected specimens to test digestibility and energy content, and assessment using field trials.

Royalties for Regions funding for the project is being considered.

Farmers who find kikuyu grass of interest are asked to contact foundation vice-chairman Tony Lloyd on 0411 474 498.

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