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—Agricultural Section ? —

M eningie — A District In The Making ? — 14 POINT PLAN FOR DEVELOPMENT ?

By J. W. RYAN, B.Ag.Sc.

At Meniiigie, ninety miles south-east of Adelaide, a virile new district is in the making. Much capital and energy is being expended and the landscape is rapidly changing from grey to verdant green as lush pastures replace stunted virgin scrub. Settlers, determined there shall be no failures, are pooling knowledge and resources. In most cases develop ment has been careful, thorough and rapid. Visitors to a field day convened last week by the Men ingie Agricultural Bureau found it hard to realise that three p_ years ago, all this was scrub. It is now a monument to the Majestic plough and to the scientists who discovered trace elements.

DISTRICT of broad-acres, most holdings at Meningie range from 2^-3,000 acres, with some much bigger. Several interstate firms and companies have bought large tracts of virgin land which are being rapidly brought to heel and turned to pasture. Carrying yacca, heath and honeysuckle with some stunted mallee on limestoney ridges, the sandy Meningie country is tricky. Of low natural fertility, it requires a certain sequence of events to reach full production. After three years pioneer ing at Meningie, the Profes sor of Agronomy at the Waite Institute (Dr. H. C. Trumble) has evolved a 14 point plan for developing the country. Seven miles north east of the town the pro perty now being developed by young John Trumble is an example to the district. Professor Trumble's plan is along the lines of CSIRO recommendations. Salient points are: — ? Logging is necessary. »A good clean burn is im portant, especially on honeysuckle flats. ?- Deep plough with a Majes tic plough when the soil is wet. - Deep plough a second time. (Space the ploughings to allow some time for con solidation of the soil. The interval can be shortened if a culti-packer is used. ? Sow at the right time which is May-June with

out a cover crop or June early July with a crop. ? Use the right strain of sub-clover together with lucerne if desired. ? Inoculate all legumes be fore seeding. ? Sow an appropriate asso ciate grass. Phalaris tube rosa (preferably GB 81 strain) is by far the most satisfactory for this purpose. This grass should be included in all mixtures whether they be sown with or without a cover crop. ? Sow all pastures with a minimum of 1 cwt. of superphosphate to the acre but with a bag for pre ference. ? The trace elements cop per and zinc are both abso lutely necessary with the first seeding. ? While smaller amounts of copper might suffice, not less than 7 lb. of zinc should be used per acre. As 7 of copper and 7 of zinc per bag is quite a common mixture, where only 1 cwt. of super is to be sown, this point needs watching when super is being ordered. ? Do not graze the pasture until the second year is well advanced. ? The second dressing of super should be at least cwt., one with a bag for pre ference. The Professor stressed that these recommendations were the result of three years' experience and pri vate experimentation on the property. Logging is a simple matter in the light scrub at Menin gie. Usually a 35-40 foot log or a railway iron is dragged behind a crawler tractor.

The clean burn was neces sary because certain chemi cal constituents in the leaves of honeysuckle de pressed the growth of clo vers, Dr. Trumble said. Once part of Mount Bar las station, the Trumble pro perty purchased in 1948, is a good example of wise de velopment with limited capital. Without much equipment most of the work, including the seeding and reaping of cover crops, has been done by reputable con tractors. Based on 1949-50 prices the net cost of develop ment, including rabbit proof fences, has been a little under £7 an acre. At that time double deep ploughing with a Majes tic cost £2 10/ an acre. No Cover Crop THE 1949-50 seedings were ?*? made with a cover crop of wheat, but since then straight pasture mixtures have been sown without the coyer crop. Dr. Trumble said the cover crop meant a saving of 25/ an acre in the year of establishment, but, it slowed down the develop ment of the associate pas ture. In time, the pasture sown with the cover crop would catch up, but there was less production in the second and third years. Also, where seeding and reaping had to be done by contract, it was difficult to get operations done at the right time. In general, clo sers established well under a cover crop but grasses were narkedly depressed. When a cover crop was sown the seeding should be

late, otherwise the crop be came too flaggy and there was a bigger drain on soil nutrients. Visitors were impressed with both the old and new pastures. One 2£-year-old stand was carrying a sheep to the acre and looked cap able of carrying two. Sown in May. 1949, the mixture was:— 3 lb. Bacchus Marsh sub-clover, 1 lb. of lucerne, 1 lb. of phalaris (GB 81), 6 oz. perennial veldt grass, 1 oz. of evening primrose. This is the standard mixture in use. In the older pasture, the primrose has now been almost eliminated by competition from five other species and by selective grazing from stock. It was important not to sow more than 6 oz. of perennial veldt. Dr. Trumble said, as it tencVd to depress the clover, phalaris and lucerne. How ever it was more productive in the early years than pha laris, and was still being used in mixtures at the rate of 4 oz. for this reason. Phalaris was preferred as it was more pro ductive, formed a better sward and allowed the clover to grow in between. Being very deep rooted, phalaris drew water and nutrients from a level be low the root zone of most other plants. It ..would thus blend well without competing with other con stituents of the pasture. Lucerne was always in cluded in the mixture to spread the risk. It could take advantage of late spring and summer rains. In Che first year after tak ing over, part of the second ploughing was done with a twin disc, and paddocks were given different super and trace element treatments in quarter mile long strips. Super Was varied from $ to 2 bags per acre. It was found that dressings above a bag were not economical, while two bags an acre seemed to depress clover growth. Professor Trumble said this was possibly because sandy soils did not hold as much water as heavier soils in other places, and when heavy dressings of super were applied they dissolved in the small amount of mois ;ure, forming a very concen trated soil solution which had an adverse effect on the clovers.

Where it had been tried, molybdenum appeared to have improved the color and possibly the nitrogen fixing powers of the clovers. It was still included with the first dressing of fertiliser, Dr. Trumble said, as it was a cheap insurance. Seeding Without Harrows TPHE 1951 seedings were made through a drill without the customary fol lowing harrows. Several visitors said they would abolish harrowing after see ing the establishment of this young pasture. Professor Trumble explained that the method had been tried be cause harrowing was costly and left the surface too smooth. When the small pasture seed was sown at the bottom of a drill row and left un harrowed it was covered only lightly by the soil which blew into the row, he said. It could be sown deeper than when harrows' were used, and, in the depressions made by the drill, the soil was warmer, there was more moisture, and the young seedling was protected from the wind. Seed could be broadcast on the surface and covered with a light harrow, but through the drill there was a concentration of super next to the seed and a con sequent better establish ment. Dr. Trumble's example has inspired the confidence of other settlers in the future of the district, and his sound, )ractical methods could well be used as a model for development. Mt. Barlas Experiments IVTUCH of Mr. Nigel P. TX Brookman's nearby pro perty at Mt. Barlas looked as though it has been farmed for 20 years, so thorough have the clearing methods been. Like others in the district, Mr. Brook man is an amateur experi mentalist, with plots com paring different pasture species and manuring trials. After a lunch supplied by the Women's Branch of the Meningie Agricultural Bu reau, visitors inspected these plots and other padclocks on the property.

All pastures have been established after double deep ploughing with a Majestic plough and mostly sown with a bag of super copper-zinc. The plot trials conducted for three years have shown that an initial dressing of 7 lb. oof copper and a similar amount of zinc are all that is required in the way of trace elements. Additional amounts and other trace elements, includ ing a dressing of ashes, have not given any response. Mr. Brookman harvested veldt grass for seed last year and has reserved another paddock for this season. Let ting the grass go to seed pre vented it from becoming a really good pasture, he said.

Veldt grass should be grazed nine months after seeding. This made it stool out bet ter and gave other species in the pasture a chance. Especially impressive at Mt. Barlas was a 15month old stand of lucerne, sown In July last year at 4 lb. to the acre with a bag of super copper-zinc. The land had been ploughed, harrowed twice and culti-packed be fore seeding. To guard against the risk of blowing Mr. Brookman had been advised to estab lish the lucerne with a cover crop. However he had de cided against this, no blow ing had occurred and, in view of the dry spring and summer, the young plants

had done much better with out the accompanying cover crop. Bared down with a heavy grazing three weeks ago, the plants have made rapid pro gress since receiving 275 points recently, and a really healthy thick stand is im minent. Mr. Brookman said he would now let it go for seed for his own use. A highlight of the Field Day was a visit to Yarindale, the property of Mr. Barton Pope, 17 miles from Menin gie. Phenomenal progress and careful planning have been keynotes in the devel opment of this 4,000 acre property which will be des cribed in 'The Chronicle' next week.

After superphosphate and trace elements have been added to the Meningie eoil* Bacchus Marsh sub-clover thrives and, as this picture taken at Dr. Trumble's prc perty shows, seed setting is prolific.

The deep sandy nature of the soil is shown in this picture of a freshly-dug well on the Trumble property. Fresh water is found about 15-20 feet down.