Native Grasses Association   Our Valuable Native Grasslands, Better Pastures Naturally
  Proceedings of the Second National Conference of the Native Grasses Association
The Regional Collection

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The Native Grass Seed Industry.-"The Victorian Scene"

Peter Wlodarczyk

Greybox & Grasslands Indigenious Nursery 50 School Rd, Balliang East 3340


The lowland basalt grasslands have been reduced to 5% of their original coverage, the fragments west of Melbourne within the last 5 years remain either on roadsides, cemeteries, rail reserves. With some larger blocks proposed for either industrial or urban development, remnants on private land have suffered the same fate due to tree planting, inappropriate weed control or the gotta get rid of it attitude. I estimate that there has been a 50% loss within the last 5 years I am presuming that this may be the rate of loss for native grasslands within the Greater Basalt Plains of Western Victoria. At this rate it is foreseeable that there will be no native grasslands of any quality left within Victoria by the end of this century. We have, at this point of time the opportunity to reverse some of the cultural paradigms that plague this vegetation type. The first step is to change the paradigm of native grasslands as a liability to that of an asset.

The Pasture Seeds Industry

To attempt to describe the Native Grass Seed Industry and where the future will take it I must first describe the Pasture Seed Industry of Victoria-

Fig 1

The main exotic pasture species supplied by the grass seeds industry in Victoria include:

  • Lolium- Ryegrass & varieties
  • Phalaris
  • Dactylus -Cocksfoot
  • Lucerne & Legume Species
  • Tall Fescue
  • Tall Wheat Grass - Lophopyrum poticum

It is interesting to note that these species are still recommended by Victorian Agricultural Authorities for perennial pasture. The recommendation of Tall Wheat Grass for use in saline areas is of particular interest considering the number of native species that could be used, such as Agrostis adamsonii. This species of native grass is listed as endangered in Victoria, however with further research and development could become a useful alternative to planting exotic pasture species on saltine areas. For example the native Puccinellia strica- Australian Saltmarsh Grass, Danthonia spp, and even salt tolerant strains of Themeda. It probably isn't any wonder that native grasslands are in such decline when we have Government organizations, promoting Exotic vegetation types. Perhaps this is another example of the great urban Australian cringe "Exotic is Better". The challenge therefore of native grasses is to solve a whole range of environmental issues.

Eg. Weed Control , Erosion Control , Salinity Control.

Supply and Demand

For any Industry to exist there are two important issues Supply & Demand it is interesting that when transposed against each other the native grass seed industry looks something like this

Fig 2

Supply of Native Grass Seed

The supply of Native grass seed will be a contentious issue to come for several reasons regarding-

  • The quality of the seed
  • The quality of the site
  • Approx. local province
  • What is a fair sale price of the seed
  • Undesirable exotic contaminates
  • Pricing the harvest of stands that contain species of state significance ( e.g. Adams best Grass Agrostis amdamsonii ).

Many other issues will arise within the Harvest Criteria, here is my attempt at developing a model for pricing native grass seed harvested from wild stands:

Introducing -Native Grass Seed Harvest Agreement

In order to

An agreement between the purchaser of the native grass seed and the owner / manager of the site to be harvested. Issues for consideration-

  • Quality of crop A grade / B grade / C grade
  • Quantity of crop - hectares / bails
  • Seed collection permit
  • Site specific eg salt control, erosion, weed control
  • For purpose of research
  • High conservation of species present
  • Potential exotic species present
  • Grazing management

A breakdown of a rating system to value / price native grass seed

A Grade

High native species diversity
Exempt of exotics

High $ value

B Grade

C3 & C4 co- dominated
Exempt of exotics

Medium $ value

C Grade

Single species dominated
Annual exotics present

Low $ value

D Grade

Single native species dominated
Perennial exotics present

No $ value has management potential to be upgraded

A native grass seed industry reverses the concept that wild native grass stands are a Liability, to a concept that wild stands of native grass are an Asset for the land owner / manager. The benefits can be divided into three groups

1. Conservation

  • Retention of Native Grass stands
  • An incentive for conservation on Private land
  • Priority funding for Biodiversity retention and management

2. Economic

  • Low input grazing pasture
  • Diversity of Farm income
  • Increased value at point of sale of property, biodiversity = $
  • New and Emerging industries - Native Grass Management
  • Harvest Contractors
  • Seed cleaning
  • Native Grass sowing and establishment

3. Community

  • Reverse rural decline
  • Retain local knowledge of Native Grass Management


The native grasslands of found on the Victorian Basalt Plain contain over 50% of this states rare and threatened species. This model outlined above attempts to demonstrate how private landholders and government agencies can reverse the decline of remnant grassy ecosystems on public and private land.


  1. Department of Natural Resources & Environment, Conservation Program for Native Grasslands & Grassy Woodlands in Victoria, 1992
  2. Department of Natural Resources & Environment; Perennial Pastures Brochure 1997
  3. Department of Conservation Victoria 1990, Rare or Threatened Plants Victoria;
  4. Gullan, Cheal & Walsh, 1990
  5. Seed Industry Australia Organization, per com, Canberra
  6. Hocking Dr. C, Phillips A , Some approaches to Serrated Tussock Control ( Nassella trichotoma ) and other weeds in Kangaroo Grass ( Themeda triandra ) dominated native grassland remnants. 1994

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