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Development of an Australian pasture selection tool using Lucid™

Stuart Brown1, Bruce Cook2 and Bruce Pengelly1

1 CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia Qld 4067 Australia, Email:
23 Callabonna St, Westlake, Qld 4074 Australia


This paper describes the development of a simple web-based pasture species selection tool using Lucid™, to help farmers and agribusiness select the most appropriate range of species for a particular defined need. Information about the numerous pasture species used throughout Australia exists in many forms with state agricultural agencies and seed merchants but it is often dispersed and specific to the particular agency or merchant.

Users of the web based tool can identify pasture species that are adapted to their environments by describing their geographical location, rainfall, various soil properties (soil pH, texture, drainage, and salinity), their farming system and the role of the pasture in the system. The selection criteria can be applied to pasture systems across Australia and have been developed in partnership with industry and research and development agencies. The selection tool contains well over 100 species commonly available commercially as well as species that are less commonly sown, including natives. Each species is accompanied by a fact sheet detailing agronomic and other information important to making a pasture decision. This tool is designed to be used by farmers, advisors and agribusiness to select pasture species for specific conditions across Australia.


pastures, forages, online, selection tool


Numerous pasture species are used by agricultural producers throughout Australia, but selecting appropriate ones for a particular region can be difficult, even for experienced pasture scientists and advisors. Information about these species is dispersed and inconsistent in content, often making it difficult to access and interpret. A web-based pasture selection tool has been developed using Lucid™ to provide a single access point to pasture species information. Lucid™ is a user–friendly, yet powerful, diagnostic and identification database platform that has been successfully utilised in over 160 diverse applications.

The national pasture selection tool seeks to bring together disparate sources of pasture information for the key pasture species currently used and recommended throughout Australia. Access to quality, objective pasture information is crucial if researchers and industry are to keep abreast of continual change be they climate, commodity or environmental changes.

Development and outcomes

In 2005 CSIRO led the development of an online and CD based forages database called ‘Tropical Forages: selection of forages for the tropics’ (SoFT). Through a series of international workshops and literature searches, SoFT brought together in one package the accumulated information on the adaptation, use and management of 180 tropical and subtropical forage species (Cook et al 2005). SoFT was primarily designed to help pasture researchers in developing and developed countries around the tropics and subtropics select appropriate species for evaluation in the environment in which they were working. As such, it was presented from a more technical perspective, and was unsuitable for general lay consumption. It also lacked the detail necessary for district level species selection in Australia. However, Australian farmers and agribusiness have, for some time, been seeking a process that would help them identify the pasture species most suited to a particular situation. The approach used in SoFT seemed an obvious and effective basis for development of a pasture selection tool with a specific Australian focus that brings together the collected activities of pasture researchers and development personnel into a single information resource. Consequently, CSIRO has been commissioned by Pastures Australia, a body resulting from a collaboration between Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Dairy Australia and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), to develop a pasture selection tool, which covers both temperate and tropical species, employing a similar approach to that used in SoFT and utilising the same development tools to create an online Australian pasture resource. The work is being conducted in two stages – development of a prototype with details of 32 species, followed by development of the final product incorporating over 100 species.

The Australian pasture selection tool has been developed with Lucid™ which is widely used for developing and distributing identification and diagnostic keys. Over 160 different identification products have been developed worldwide with this platform including SoFT. The proven abilities of Lucid™ allowed us to develop the Australian pasture selection tool free from software development concerns and enabled us to focus on practical pasture issues, particularly in relation to appropriate selection criteria and pasture species for Australian environments.

The main features of this project includes: (i) a pasture selection tool based on Lucid™ allowing for the identification of those species most appropriate to a particular application in a particular environment, as defined by the selection criteria (Table 1) and; (ii) information fact sheets describing adaptation, use, management and cultivar information including photographs for each species.

Table 1. Selection criteria currently available within the Australian pasture selection tool.

Pasture use and environment

Soil characteristics

Other plant characteristics

Intended forage/pasture use
Pasture > 5 years
Pasture 3-5 years
Pasture < 3 years
Self regeneration
Green chop
Conservation (Hay etc.)
Green manure
Irrigated pasture

Rainfall (average or range)

NRM region
{choice of 56 regions from map}

deep sand
sand; sandy loam
loam; clay loam
strongly acid (<5.0 water)(<4.5 Ca)
acidic (5.0-6.5 water)(4.5-5.5 Ca)
neutral (6.5-7.5 water)(5.5-7.0 Ca)
alkaline (>7.5 water)(>7.0 Ca)
well drained
occasionally waterlogged
commonly waterlogged
Surface salinity
low (0-2dS/m)
medium (3-8dS/m)
high (>8dS/m)

- Type
Life cycle

Base data used in the tool was derived from a series of workshops involving experienced pasture researchers from CSIRO, QDPI&F, NSW Ag, DAFWA, SARDI, Victoria DPI, DPI Tasmania and private pasture consultants conversant with Australian pasture systems and currently available commercial pasture species. These workshops produced and refined both the species list and the selection criteria. Some less commonly available but important species along with a small selection of native species have also been included for reference purposes even if they are not commercially available. The regional expertise of collaborating project personnel has been crucial in determining and collating the broader adaptation of species in an Australia-wide context. Within the pasture selection tool each species has been ‘scored’, that is matched for a particular feature, according to its value and specific constraints in a particular predefined region. For simplicity and consistency across the country each region is based on the Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions defined for Australia. These regions have been delineated by state, territory and Australian government agencies, and in most cases were based on catchments or bioregions (Australian Government 2007).

A user can identify a suitable pasture by choosing a particular NRM region to begin a pasture selection and then proceed to choose from the remaining available features to get a list of species suitable for their requirements. An example pasture selection for the Border Rivers NRM region in Queensland might seek a legume to fit into a long term pasture system on a clay soil with an average annual rainfall of 525mm. This series of selections would result in a small group of suitable legumes for this environment (Figure 1). The user may then investigate each of these species further by interrogating the available fact sheets for detailed information on adaptation, uses, management and cultivars.

Figure 1. The four selection windows from the online pasture selection tool showing the species (entities) remaining and the species (entities) discarded for the NRM region of Border Rivers along with the chosen selection criteria (features).

Lucid™ also gives the user the ability to differentiate between species in terms of selection criteria or to find out why a species was discarded from the list. These are powerful additional features that provide the user with a further insight into the characteristics of the species.

The next stage in development of the pasture tool will involve expansion of the array of fact sheets, and the extension of species ‘scoring’ according to an enhanced selection criteria. As in stage 1, the pasture R&D community will be canvassed to apply their knowledge and experience. Workshops with pasture advisors, farmers and seed merchants have provided invaluable feedback to the prototype version of this tool and served as input for second stage development of a fully functioning online resource.


The Australian pasture selection tool is designed to be used by farmers, advisors and agribusiness to select pasture species for their specific conditions across Australia. It will also be a valuable teaching tool for universities and schools imparting pasture information to the next generation of researchers, farmers and enthusiasts. The future will inevitably bring new species, cultivars and information updates. Lucid™ is sufficiently flexible to allow for changes and new information to be added as needed. The online selection tool is still in the working prototype stage but is due for national release by Pastures Australia in April 2009.


We gratefully acknowledge the funding of this project and the prototype stage by Pastures Australia. In particular we thank Rory Coffey (AWI) for his project management as well as the many pasture experts from around Australia who have contributed their time and expertise to this project.


Australian Government 2007, ‘What is a Natural Resource Management region?’, Natural Resource Management, online

Cook BG, Pengelly BC, Brown SD, Donnelly JL, Eagles DA, Franco MA, Hanson J, Mullen BF, Partridge IJ, Peters M and Schultze-Kraft R 2005, Tropical Forages: an interactive selection tool, [CD-ROM], CSIRO, DPI&F (Qld), CIAT and ILRI, Brisbane, Australia.

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