Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) - a potential pasture species


  • A.V. Stewart



Plantago lanceolata L. is a herb species with a broad distribution in grasslands throughout the temperate world. The leaf is highly palatable to grazing animals, providing a mineral- rich forage. The species is rapid to establish, grows on a wide range of agricultural soils and is tolerant of drought and of many common diseases and pests. Two productive upright cultivars of plantain have been bred, Grasslands Lancelot and the more erect winter active Ceres Tonic. Plantain contains a range of biologically active compounds, often in large quantities. The antimicrobial compounds present can inhibit rumen fermentation and change the volatile fatty acid composition of the rumen. These changes have potential to affect bloat, animal performance and milk composition. The performance of animals grazing plantain has varied from excellent in mixed pastures to poor on nitrogen-fertilised pure swards. Animals grazing plantain have been observed to have a reduced incidence of scouring and dags in some trials, but despite a mild anthelmintic effect detected in the laboratory, field trials have failed to detect any significant reduction in worm burdens. The most likely use of plantain on farms is as a component of mixed pasture swards. Its contribution is likely to be greatest where grass growth is less vigorous and where there are gaps in the sward. These conditions are likely to be found in low fertility dryland pastures. It is unlikely to be the dominant species and could be expected to contribute less than 20% of the sward, except where the grass or legume growth is poor. Keywords: perennial forage herbs, Plantago lanceolata, plantain