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Lucerne-growing for Pasture.
The following practical information on the above subject, obtained through Mr. Inspector of Stock Watson, Corowa, at the instance of the Chief Inspector, is published for the information of our readers. If further particulars are desired with respect to this subject the Department will be glad to furnish them.
Questions and Answers re Growth of Lucerne. 1. The area laid down in lucerne 1. About 21,000 acres.
in Corowa district ?
N.B.-There will be a much larger average laid down every year, as not only the value is so much appreciated, but many owners who have let their land on the half system for wheat have made a condition that the last year the land should be laid down in lucerne. I consider there is a great future before us in this plant, and as it does not want much rain, from my experience of the pine scrub land on the Lachlan, I think it would do well there. Mr. M'Farland is sowing lucerne broadcast without any preparation. How this will do time will show. Sowing it with the wheat has been tried, but, so far as I can see, not with success.
BY A. MOLINEUX,
Tiiis pest first appeared about ten or twelve years ago on Mr. James Bell's property at Morphettville, South Australia, and should it make its appearance in isolated spots in New South Wales heroic measures would be justifiable in order to prevent its spread.
In South Australia the insects are generally known as “lucerne fleas”; in Europe the common name for them is “springtails," and the local name is quite as much a misnomer as the term "flea-beetle," by which they are at times referred to in New South Wales.
The pests extend as far south as Morphettville and Clarendon, and north beyond the sewage farm. The insects eat the soft part of the leaves, completely skeletonising them, and giving a badly infested field a whitish appearance. The damage done to lucerne fields is very great, whilst serious injury has been done to fodder crops of all descriptions, and even to cereal crops, vegetables, and to flower-gardens.
In 1887 the late Fraser S. Crawford described the pest in the Garden and Field, stating they belonged to Lubbock's order of Collembola or Springtails, family Smynthuridæ. For their treatment he suggested close feeding or cutting of the lucerne, and then dressing with quick-lime, sulphate of ammonia, superphosphate, kainit, or some other chemical which would act as a stimulant to the plant and be distasteful to the insects. He also suggested that a light frame, covered with canvas, and fixed to light wheels in such a manner as to be easily adjusted according to the height of the lucerne, and the undersides of the canvas tarred, would, if drawn across infested fields, kill great numbers of insects. Paris green at rate of 1 lb. in 200 gallons of water was also suggested.
In September, 1891, a number of experiments with & Pearson-Dobbie broadcast sprayer were carried out under the superintendence of Professor Lowrie, assisted by Messrs. A. W. Dobbie, W. C. Grasby, and H. Kelly. Kerosene emulsion, containing about 70 per cent. of kerosene and diluted, was first tried. By this means large numbers of insects were killed, but owing to faulty preparation the oil separated from the water. Paris green and London purple, at rate of 1 lb. in 50 gallons of water, was also tried. This seemed to have a beneficial result, but in a very short time the field was again infested.
Mr. Chas. French, F.L.S., Entomologist to the Department of Agriculture of Victoria, identified specimens sent from this office as Smerenthids, but could recommend no remedial treatment, except spraying with Paris green
(1 lb. in 200 gallons of water) or Hellebore, or dressing with mixture of 1 cwt. sulphate of iron, 1 cwt. sulphate of potash, and 1 cwt. sulphate of ammonia per acre. If stock were kept off fields sprayed with Paris green at strength mentioned for twenty-four hours they would not be injured by the poison.
Mr. Henry Tryon, Entomologist to the Queensland Department of Agriculture, identified the insect as a Smynthurus, probably a new species allied to 8. viridis. He also found a few insects belonging to (apparently) a species of Papirius (Spring tails).
Mr. Claude Fuller, Assistant Entomologist to the New South Wales Department, thought the insects identical with Smynthurus viridis, a European species.
A number of growers in the infested districts were communicated with, asking for information concerning the habits of the pest, the area over which it had spread, and the remedies tried, and the substance of their replies is as follows:
Mr. Jas. Bell, Morphettville, states he tried many different methods of coping with the pest, devoting a considerable amount of time and money to his experiments. Spraying with Paris green appeared to destroy the insects, and did no injury to the cattle grazed on it the following day, but the paddock was reinfested in a few days from the adjoining land. His most successful plan was to turn a flock of sheep into the field when the ground was moist. They puddled it down, and apparently destroyed the insects, and for about six weeks the lucerne kept growing, but then the insects came in, and the crop was as bad as ever. Mr. Bell doubts whether any effectual remedy will ever be discovered, unless it is a natural enemy of the pest.
Mr. W. A. Morphett, of Morphettville, states he has tried harrowing and rolling, but although this destroyed great numbers, it had no lasting effect. He thought close grazing with sheep would be most beneficial, through close trampling, and possibly the effect of the urine.
Mr. I. S. Elworthy, manager of Sir Thomas Elder's Morphettville Stud Farm, states he has tried carbolic acid, lime, and salt, but derived the most benefit from the use of gas-lime, fresh from the retorts. It would be difficult to obtain this in sufficient quantity to treat large areas. It requires very careful use, or it will injure the lucerne. Above all, he recommends sheep folded at night, with shifting hurdles upon the lucerne-paddock until the ground is quite bare, and when the whole area has been folded over, scarify the land lightly, when the lucerne will grow with renewed vigour, and remain free from the pest longer than with any other treatment he has tried.
Mr. G. A. Gebhardt, of Glenelg, also reports beneficial results from use of fresh gas-lime after the lucerne has been cut.
Mr. H. Sherriff, of Underdale, reports beneficial results from use of two dressings of specially-prepared superphosphate, at rate of cwt. per acre. Folded flocks of sheep on paddocks in wet weather gave better results.
Mr. C. F. Fenn, of Fullarton, states that he used fresh gas-lime, which caused the disappearance of the insects, and they have never reappeared.
Mr. W. Kither, of Glenelg, reports, through Mr. J. Cox, having used gaslime and quick-lime,-the gas-lime being a sure exterminator. Burning the surface of the land and deep-working was also very beneficial.
Mr. J. H. Aldridge, of Richmond, reports using Paris green mixed with gypsum with very little result.
Mr. Bedford Hack, manager of the sewage farm, states he has used freshly-slacked lime, followed by heavy flooding with sewage water, but this
only checked them for a time. Spreading straw over the affected patches and burning it had practically no effect. Owing to constantly cutting the fodder and irrigating, the pest has, however, made but little headway.
Mr. S. A. White, of Wetunga, Fulham, has used quick-lime without success, gas-lime with temporary success, and Paris green, which he found killed the insects.
From the reports received it seems that the insects appear after the first
disappear. Hot weather plays havoc with them, and after hot dry wind the difference in numbers is most marked. Moisture seems essential to their vigorous growth. When the autumn and winter is dry the pest is not so severe as in wet years, the present season being an instance of this fact. The attacks of the insect are by no means confined to lucerne. Grass of all sorts, the so-called Cape weeds or Cape marigold, vegetables, flowers, and even cereal crops are severely attacked, and owing to this fact the treatment is rendered most difficult. If a paddock is cleared of the pest, within a few days it is again reinfested by myriads of insects from the roadsides and adjoining paddocks. All the growers are unanimous in stating that unless some practical remedy is discovered it will mean very serious loss to lucernegrowers, and some say it will be quite impossible to grow lucerne at all. All the remedies so far tried have simply checked the pest, for the reasons mentioned. The most beneficial results have been obtained from (a) hurdling sheep on the affected paddocks, which appears to destroy the insects by trampling them into the soil; and then breaking up the surface soil with scarifier or cultivator; (6) gas-lime spread over the field after the lucerne has been cut, which seems to destroy or drive away the insects for a few weeks, and also to stimulate the growth of the crop. Care is necessary in applying this, as an overdose will greatly injure, if not kill, the lucerne. It is worthy of note that in districts badly affected some paddocks of lucerne which are irrigated during summer months never seem to suffer to any great extent, and this is attributed by some to the fact that the moisture causes the insects to appear prematurely or out of season, with the result that they are destroyed by the hot dry weather.