The University of Arizona

Grazing Management in Tropical Savannas: Utilization and Rest Strategies to Manipulate Rangeland Condition

Andrew J. Ash, Jeff P. Corfield, John G. McIvor

Abstract


Grazing management is important for sustaining the productivity and health of rangelands. However, the effects of grazing management on herbage growth and species composition in the tropical savannas of northern Australia are not well known. In this eight-year study the influences of utilization rate and resting pastures from grazing on vegetation dynamics were measured at three sites in northeast Queensland, Australia. The sites had high, medium, and low soil fertility, and there were two land condition classes (States I and II) at each site. Severe drought occurred during the first four years, but above-average rainfall was received in the second half of the study. High utilization rates reduced biomass, perennial grass basal area, and ground cover. The reduction in biomass was due to both higher consumption and decreased primary production. State I condition plots at the high and medium soil fertility sites were initially dominated by decreaser perennial grasses, but these declined at all utilization levels, particularly the high rate. They were largely replaced by exotic perennial grasses. At the low fertility site there were no exotic grasses, and the decreaser grasses increased in all treatments, with the increases greatest in plots with low utilization or medium utilization plus resting. In the State II condition plots at the high and medium fertility sites, low or moderate utilization, led to an increase in both decreaser and exotic perennial grasses; with high utilization the decreaser perennial grasses declined and were replaced largely by exotic perennial grasses. This study clearly demonstrated that either conservative stocking with year-round grazing or a grazing system that includes some wet-season resting will help maintain land in a desirable state or help facilitate the transition from a less desirable ecological state to one more desirable for pastoral production and rangeland condition.


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