Lucerne breeder on tap for growers at Henty

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Wagga dairy farmer Travis Thompson with Silverosa GT grown under pivot.

One of the nation’s most knowledgeable lucerne breeders Ian Kaehne will be a special guest at the Upper Murray Seeds site at Henty this year.

Dr Kaehne, of South Australia, bred varieties such as Hunterfield, Sceptre and Eureka during his 40-year career.

Dr Kaehne resigned from public research and plant breeding in 1994, with growers convincing him to restart lucerne breeding in 1996.

The growers wanted a highly winter-active lucerne variety incorporating the desirable characteristics of dormant and semi-dormant lucernes, such as persistence, high forage quality and versatility.

Dr Kaehne developd the highly productive and persistant Silverado followed by the winter-active Silverosa GT, which was released onto the commercial market in 2012.

Silverosa GT is suitable for prolonged grazing and has shown tolerance to higher salinity levels compared to other lucernes.

Travis Thompson, who milks over 500 cows near Wagga, said despite a hot, dry summer in 2013/14, the Silverosa GT (under a centre pivot) still produced top quality hay for the cow’s ration mix.

“I’ve been impressed wit the amount of leaf on the plant and the soft stalks,’’ Mr Thompson said.

“We sowed the lucerne in the spring of 2011 at a rate of 20kg/ha and were grazing it four months later with no issues for animal or plant health.

“In 2015, we grazed down the now four-year-old stand through until spring, when it was locked up until early November before being used to again make hay for the dairy.’’

Dr Kaehne said the five key production characteristics of both the Silver lucernes are their persistence, high leaf/stem ratio, high leaf disease resistance, ability to retain leaf during adverse weather and their frost tolerance.

“Silverado and Silverosa GT were also selected for recovery and maintenance of production under frequent defoliation, handling up to 10 cuts per year,’’ he said.