New lucerne variety launched in Tamworth

NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Deputy Director-General Science and Research, Nick Austin, today launched a new winter-active lucerne variety bred exclusively for cropping systems.

The new variety, Pegasis, is the first to be released through the Australian Lucerne Alliance - a partnership between NSW DPI, the Grains Research and Development Corporation, and Seedmark.

Speaking at the launch in Tamworth, Dr Austin said Pegasis had been developed for short-term lucerne rotations and sustainable cropping systems.

“Pegasis has excellent production and persistence in dryland situations and demonstrates a very leafy and densely branched growth habit with large spreading crowns,” Dr Austin said.

“These features will allow it to deliver improved productivity and performance compared to other highly winter-active varieties, particularly when very productive stands need to be maintained for three to four years.

“With multiple pest and disease resistance, Pegasis can be grown for hay or silage and is also expected to be a very productive variety under irrigation and rotational grazing management.”

Lucerne has long been regarded as the ‘King of the Fodders’ with its capacity to produce high quality feed, drought tolerance, and its contribution to grazing value. Now its potential as a legume-ley in cropping rotations has come to the fore.

“Lucerne’s ability to fix nitrogen and return organic matter helps restore the fertility of cropping soils,” Dr Austin said.

“A legume-ley provides a ‘break-crop’ reducing yield losses that can arise from pests and disease in monoculture cropping, while competitive lucerne stands also reduce weed burdens, and can help to delay the onset of herbicide resistance.

“Also, the deep root system of lucerne can draw down excess water in the soil profile and reduce the incidence of waterlogging, salinisation and acidification of cropping country.

“These benefits translate to increased grain yield, improved grain quality, improved environmental sustainability and greater whole-farm profitability.”

He said Pegasis would complement previous releases from the NSW DPI’s lucerne breeding program located at the Tamworth Agricultural Institute – Nova, Aurora, Aquarius, Genesis, and Venus.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of Dr Rex Williams, who headed the department’s lucerne breeding program for many years until his resent resignation,” Dr Austin said.

“Dr Williams built a solid reputation as one of Australia’s leading lucerne breeders and I am pleased to announce the department is pursuing a suitable replacement to allow his work to continue.”

Pegasis has demonstrated outstanding performance across a range of different field trials across NSW and in southern Queensland. It prefers light to medium, deep well-drained soils.

Seedmark (Seed Technology and Marketing) has an exclusive licence for the production and marketing of Pegasis. Seed will be available commercially in 2007.