Mixed Results for Messina Hamish Thompson and Tim Harris planted Neptune Messina (Melilotus siculus), which was funded through the QFH Multiparts Productive Landcare Demonstration project in May 2017. Messina is an annual pasture legume for winter-wet saltland areas that shows much promise for our region. Tim Harris planted two paddocks, nearly adjoined, and while both received the same seed treatment, weed knockdown and sowing rate per hectare, the results were markedly different due to slightly different approaches to soil preparation and site conditions. The first plot was a highly successful planting over an 8ha patch of wheat stubble. It was planted in mid-May and received little rain until July rains, but has grown to a good size suitable for harvesting in most of the plot.

Plot 1 – Tim Harris – nearly ready for harvest

The other site was a grazing paddock that Tim ripped prior to seeding, in an effort to aerate soil and increase water absorption, but this instead led to the soil being dried out. “Rainfall really affected the quality of the crop this season,” said Tim. “It will be interesting to see how it goes in a better season. These paddocks only received 18mm of rain between sowing in May and July. This plant really does seem to prefer wetter conditions.”

Plot 2 – Tim Harris – no Messina evident, other grasses and unknown species.

Hamish Thompson’s 14.5ha sloping site had variations across the single site, with areas that had previously been sown to barley showing better establishment than those on the remains of a pasture area.

Hamish Thompson – better growth over the stubble higher on the slope, with fair germination but poor growth elsewhere

Hamish sowed in early May, and the site received light rains in May, then nothing again until July. While he had good germination rates across the site, and a lot of seed production, the plants did not ‘get up’ well in the lower areas of the site. Hamish expects this was due to heavy soil and low soil moisture. He hopes to be able to harvest some of the seed from this year’s efforts and plant again in a paddock over stubble with better soil moisture capacity.

Small plants but generous seed production.

Neptune Messina seed

“A lot of the seed won’t be able to harvested, and it will be interesting to see what germinates next season. Messina is 26% hard seeded, so there’s a good chance of germination of seed left in the soil in the coming year.” Two other farmers in the QFH Productive Landcare Project, Tyler Caldwell and Stephen Barrett, also received partial funding for Messina seed to trial as a part of the demonstration, but held off planting last season due to soil moisture constraints. They will sow in the 2018 season, and will be able to use some of the lessons learned from Hamish and Tim to ensure best results on their own properties.