Native grasses are those that occurred naturally in Australia at the time of European settlement. A number of grass species introduced into Australia after this time are now widespread and reproduce naturally, e.g. Pennisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass), Nassella trichotoma (serrated tussock), Hordeum leporinum (barley grass), Eragrostis curvula (African lovegrass) and Vulpia spp. (silver grass or rat’s tail fescue). These species should be referred to as ‘naturalised’ as distinct from native grasses. Both weedy and valuable grasses have become naturalised. Australia has about 1,000 species of native grasses and about 350 naturalised species. These guidelines deal only with native species considered to have a high priority for commercial development and/or already are being re-introduced to some areas. These guidelines contain details on fourteen native grass species, thus representing a small proportion of the potential resource available. The characteristics and use of these species are discussed in the context of their potential for eastern Australia.
The purpose of this guide is to provide information that will encourage the widespread commercial use of Australian native grasses. Despite their current popularity, we have very little science based informa-tion on which to base practical guidelines for the commercial use of these species in a wide range of situations. Consequently, most workers have adopted a ‘best-bet’ approach to using native grasses. In many cases this approach has been effective but there have also been many failures. These guidelines have also attempted to address the different needs of practitioners when using native grasses, either for revegetation/rehabilitation or for seed production. The agronomic techniques for seed production are only just beginning to be understood. Information on individual species, whether for revegetation or seed production, is often difficult to find and is dispersed throughout the literature. These guidelines collect currently available information concerning the utilisation of these valuable species. The authors expect this knowledge base to be constantly refined as time goes by.