Astrebla pectinata (Barley Mitchell grass)


Barley Mitchell grass

Astrebla pectinata is a warm   season perennial grass, which is palatable to livestock even when it is dry.   Crude protein levels range from 4.7–10.8 % and phosphorus 0.21–0.43 %. Mitchell   grass provides one of the most stable and economically important pastures in the   semi-arid areas of eastern Australia. There are four species of Mitchell grass   in Australia with A. pectinata being found in the drier regions. It is   an erect plant with pale coloured seed heads positioned generally above the   leaves. 'Turanti' is a variety of this species bred by NSW Agriculture. This   variety has been selected for high seed yield, superior dry matter and leaf   production as well as increased proportion of green leaf growth in winter.


Vegetatively similar to A. lappacea (Curly Mitchell grass), however,   this species tends to more erect with a more compact base. It produces less seed   heads than A. lappacea and also tends to be less variable in growth   habit and inflorescence (Inflorescence - a group of flowers borne on a stem) characteristics. A. pectinata can grow up to 1 m in height. The stems   are erect, hairless, smooth and usually branched. The seed head is born above   the leaves, unbranched, 3–8 cm long, 1–1.5 cm wide. The head appears light in   colour and viewed from behind has 2 distinct rows of spikelets (Spikelet - consists of one or more florets and is the basic unit of the inflorescence in grasses) on either side of an axis somewhat resembling barley.


A. pectinata occurs in similar areas to that of A. lappacea but also   extends into the drier areas (<250 mm rainfall). It occurs in areas from the   south western regions of New South Wales, throughout south western Queensland,   through central Australia to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. A.   pectinata tends not to dominate a pasture in contrast to A.   lappacea. A. pectinata will do well on both grey cracking clay   soils and lighter red soils.

Vegetation associations

Associated with curly Mitchell grass (A.lappacea) and Queensland   bluegrass (Dichanthium sericeum).


Ideal conditions

Maximum germination percentages (>80%) can be achieved at temperatures   between 20–40°C. Ideal sowing times are September/October or January/February   avoiding the hottest part of summer when the soil surface dries out quickly. Astrebla spp. has a high water requirement and therefore it is best to   sow when the soil moisture profile is close to full. Conventional seed bed   preparation techniques for a cereal crop will apply to paddock preparation for Astrebla spp. Good rainfall or irrigation post sowing will assist in   successful field establishment.


Naked and fluffy seed can be sown using conventional machinery. Buffel drum   seeders have also been successfully used to sow fluffy seed. Seed can be   broadcast into a weed free seedbed or into wheat stubble. Aerial seeding has   also had some success. A light harrowing after broadcasting or aerial   application will assist in achieving good soil/seed contact. For seed production   under irrigation, sowing rates greater than 8 kg/ha are recommended, for dryland   pastures 1–2 kg/ha. Seed is sown shallow, no more than 1 cm deep. Ideal sowing   times are early or late summer.

Weed control

Seedlings appear to have little tolerance to Atradex® and Glean® . For advice   on herbicide recommendations contact your local agronomist.


A specialised root system found on mature plants allows this species to   persist through droughts and under heavy grazing. Whilst this species is   long-lived, recruitment of new seedlings occurs only infrequently. Astrebla spp. responds well to moderate grazing or cutting which tends   to stimulate tillering (Tiller - aerial shoot usually lateral and basal and more or less erect) and seed production. As this species ages both the number and size of   inflorescences are reduced, however, cutting and irrigation may help to promote   new growth. A. pectinata is susceptible to frost and floods.