Evaluation of Perennial Forage Legumes and Herbs in Six Mediterranean Environments
There is an absence of drought tolerant herbaceous perennial forage legume and herb options other than lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) for environments with Mediterranean-like climates common in extensive areas of Southern Australia, the Mediterranean basin, and Chile. Therefore, a collection of 174 forage perennial legume and herb entries from 103 species and 32 genera was evaluated for adaptation in a diverse range of Mediterranean climatic environments in Southern Australia. The seasonal rainfall distribution varied from moderately to highly winter dominant with long term average annual rainfall ranging from 318 to 655 mm. The entries were rated for productivity and persistence over 3 yr. The 12 entries identified as the most promising for winter, summer, or all-year round production included Bituminaria bituminosa (L.) C.H. Stirt. var. albomarginata; Cichorium intybus L.; Cullen australasicum (Schltdl.) J.W. Grimes; Dorycnium hirsutum (L.) Ser.; Kennedia prostrata R. Br.; Lotononis bainesii Baker, Lotus pedunculatus Cav.; L. corniculatus L.; L. cytisoides L.; Medicago sativa subsp. sativa L.; Medicago sativa subsp. caerulea (Less. ex Ledeb.) Schmalh., and M. sativa subsp. falcata (L.) Arcang. These entries maintained production and persisted for the period of the evaluation, with the exception of C. intybus and L. corniculatus that declined in persistence over time. The potential role of these species in extensive grazing systems in Mediterranean climatic zones, their attributes and limitations, and current progress in developing them as useful forage plants was discussed.