Evaluation of chicory cultivars and accessions for forage in south-eastern Australia
The comparative herbage production and persistence of 7 chicory cultivars and 14 accessions collected from diverse regions of the world were evaluated over 3 years in 5 agro-ecological environments across New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (Vic.) and South Australia (SA). Results showed that all cultivars had higher herbage yields than the accessions, but varied greatly among sites. Averaged across all cultivars, total herbage yields were up to 24.6 t DM/ha over 3 years at the Hamilton, Vic. site, but as low as 6.9 and 5.7 t DM/ha at the Wagga Wagga and Bookham, NSW sites, respectively, where chicory only persisted for 2 years. In contrast, the average herbage yield of all accessions was only one-half of that produced by the cultivars at the Hamilton site and about one-third of that at the other 4 sites. All cultivars and accessions persisted well under the favourable climate conditions experienced at the Hamilton site. In contrast, severe drought in 2006 resulted in the death of chicory swards at the Wagga Wagga and Bookham sites, and substantial declines in persistence at the Manilla, NSW and Willalooka, SA sites. Nevertheless, accessions collected from Australia and Asia were more persistent than some of the cultivars and may provide opportunities to select genotypes better adapted to intermittently dry mixed farming systems in south-eastern Australia. Our findings indicated that the current cultivars were best suited to sites similar to the Hamilton site in the winter-dominant, higher rainfall zone of south-eastern Australia. Under these conditions chicory was likely to be productive and persistent for 4 years or longer. In the drier mixed farming zone, chicory may be more suitable in shorter (2-3-year) pasture phases. Further research is required to identify those factors contributing to poor persistence.