Narrow leaf plantain

NOTE: The information in this Agnote must be read in conjunction with Introduction to selecting and using pastures in NSW, which covers information on areas of adaptation, sources of variability, species mixtures, and important issues related to animal health and the conservation of native vegetation.
Pasture type and use Perennial herb, growing all year round. It can be used on its own, but most commonly is sown as part of a mixed pasture sward for grazing. Potential for silage and haymaking.
Area of adaptation Plantain is adapted to a wide range of soil acidity pH(Ca) 4.2–7.8. Plantain is adapted to low-fertility situations, and is drought-tolerant. It is also relatively heat-tolerant.
Min. average annual rainfall 550+ mm in southern NSW, and 650 mm in northern NSW.
  • High mineral content, particularly calcium.
  • High livestock performance forage comparable to ryegrass and clovers.
  • Drought-tolerant.
  • Able to grow well in low-fertility soils.
  • Adapted to wide pH range: pH(Ca) 4.2–7.8.
  • Fast emergence.
  • Can improve liveweight gains when included in perennial pasture mixes.
  • Can be used for silage and haymaking.
  • Can regenerate from seed.
  • Poor competition to shading from vigorous species.
  • Has a lower tolerance to soil compaction and trampling than does ryegrass.
  • Can be used for haymaking, but leaves are slow to dry.
  • Stems have very low palatability, digestibility and nutrient value (59% digestibility, 13.8% protein — vegetative stage).
  • Will not tolerate phenoxy-based chemicals (2,4-D, MCPA), and there are no registered chemicals for weed control.
Soil requirements Will perform well even in low-fertility soils. It requires soils that enable deep taproot penetration for maximum drought tolerance. Free-draining soils are best.
Varieties Tonic *
Lancelot *

* Denotes that this variety is protected by Plant Breeder’s Rights.

Tonic has larger leaves and more winter production and is the higher producing of the two cultivars. Lancelot is more tolerant of close grazing, while Tonic is more suited to rotational grazing.

Sowing rates:
  • as only species - Plantain is not recommended on its own, as weed invasion will soon occur.
  • in mixtures - In perennial pasture mixes, a sowing rate of 1–4 kg/ha is appropriate. Where sown with white or red clover only, a sowing rate for narrow leaf plantain of 8 kg/ha is appropriate.
Sowing time Autumn and spring sowing most common.
Companion species Annual and perennial clovers in pasture mixes with grasses such as fescue and cocksfoot, and oversown ryegrass.

Will not compete well with ryegrass at establishment.

Where perennial ryegrass is sown as part of the pasture mix, plantain establishment will generally be poor.

Inoculation Plantain is a herb and does not require inoculation.
Major nutrient deficiencies It is highly efficient at utilising mineral and soil nutrients, and does not suffer nutrient deficiencies under normal grazing situations.
Main insect pests Slugs and snails are a potential threat at all stages of growth.
Main diseases Ascochyta leaf spot has been noted, and Rhizoctonia sp. root rot has been noted in older stands.
Management Lancelot plantain will tolerate close grazing and is persistent under set stocking conditions. Tonic has a higher crown and is more suited to rotational grazing.

Plantain will exhibit high levels of response to nitrogen — strategic applications that coincide with growth periods have been found to be beneficial.

Palatability and nutrition are best from young leaf material.

Stem material is of poor feed value, requiring grazing to control stem initiation. In mixed swards, care is needed to ensure that vigorous clover and ryegrass growth does not out-compete plantain.

Livestock disorders of particular note No livestock disorders have been encountered.
Additional tips
  • Plantain is not an aggressive species, and in pastures it will tend to be confined to about 25% of perennial pasture mixes.
  • In grass pastures, it will perform best combined with less aggressive slower establishing species such as cocksfoot and fescues.
  • If combined with ryegrass and clovers in a vigorous sward, production will fall if shaded. As grasses and clovers hay off, production will increase.


Advice on livestock health disorders was provided by Dr Chris Bourke, Principal Research Scientist, NSW Agriculture, Orange. His contribution is gratefully acknowledged.