Pasture and sheep responses to lime application in a grazing experiment in a high-rainfall area, south-eastern Australia. I. Pasture production
‘Managing Acid Soils Through Efficient Rotations (MASTER)’ is a long-term pasture–crop rotation experiment commenced in 1992. One of the objectives was to demonstrate the extent of crop, pasture, and animal responses to lime on a typical acidic soil in the 500–800 mm rainfall zone in south-eastern Australia. Two types of pastures (perennial v. annual pastures) with or without lime application were established in 1992. This paper presents the results of the pasture dry matter (DM) responses to lime application over 6 years from 1992 to 1997. Results showed that both perennial and annual pastures responded positively to lime on a highly acidic soil on the south-west slopes of New South Wales. Averaged across pasture types and 5 growing seasons, the limed pastures produced 18% more pasture DM (520 kg/ha, P < 0.05) than the unlimed pastures. Significant responses to lime were detected on perennial pastures (610 kg DM/ha, P < 0.05), but not on annual pastures, although the limed annual pastures produced more DM (420 kg/ha, P = 0.20) than the unlimed annual pastures. There was a large seasonal variation in pasture growth rate with the significant lime responses in winter and spring on both perennial pastures (P < 0.05) and annual pastures (P < 0.10 in winter and P < 0.05 in spring), but no responses in autumn and summer on either perennial or annual pastures. The extra growth in winter is of importance as winter is the period when feed is normally inadequate and limits stocking rates. It is recommended that perennial-based pastures should be promoted for the purposes of productivity, in terms of increasing pasture production and improving feed quality, and for the environmental benefits in terms of alleviating the soil acidity problem and reducing the risk of dryland salinity in the high-rainfall zone in south-eastern Australia.