Thomas G. Chastain
The Tasmanian Pasture Seed Conference was held in November in Launceston, Tasmania. The conference was hosted by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, the University of Tasmania, private seed companies and agricultural suppliers and banking interests in Australia.
Several local and international speakers made presentations at the conference and it was attended not only by residents of Tasmania but also by seed producers and company representatives from mainland Australia. Major international seed companies and suppliers were present as well as their local counterparts. The conference began with one day of presentations and discussions regarding the state of the Tasmanian herbage seed industry in comparison with international seed production regions as well as a look at the current state of knowledge in herbage seed production. That was followed up a day later by a well-organized tour of farm fields and production facilities.
The climate, soils, widespread irrigation availability and human capital are among the strong and positive attributes for Tasmanian herbage seed production and support the current capitalization of herbage seed production. The climate for seed production is drier than Oregon’s Willamette Valley and warmer than New Zealand’s Canterbury Plains. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year unlike the winter wet, summer dry climate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Current herbage seed production in Tasmania is estimated to be 3500 hectares. Seed yields are good but they can be improved with the application of locally-sourced management approaches that best fit the state’s environment and agronomic philosophy. There is interest in exploring the possibility of expanding herbage seed production in the state, especially in light of additional irrigated lands coming into production.
Attendees were provided with several opportunities to view crops and facilities during the conference. Herbage seed crops viewed included perennial ryegrass, Italian ryegrass, tall fescue, cocksfoot, red clover and white clover. Other seed crops included carrot, peas, canola, and Chinese cabbage. The region has a wide diversity of economically viable rotation crops available for seed producers including pharmaceutical poppy (Papaver somniferum), wheat, potatoes, peas, flax for oil, canola, pyrethrum, barley and alfalfa. There were also many improved pastures in the area. Herbage seed crops are a significant part of the forage production in the Tasmania. Weeds species and other pests were for the most part similar to other major seed production regions across the globe.
An initial assessment of the herbage seed production potential in Tasmania suggests that there is an opportunity for expansion of this enterprise in the state, but there are also some impediments in place that will need to be overcome.