Sowing & Establishment
Lucerne requires deep, well-drained soils (sands to moderately heavy clays) with a slightly acid to alkaline pH. It is intolerant of high levels of exchangeable aluminium.
Planning will help extend a lucerne stand life; always sow a forage crop in rotation prior to replanting into a paddock that has an
old lucerne stand, this helps to lower the instances of root disease being carried over to a new crop. This will also help with weed suppression prior to the final cultivation as well as ensuring that the newly sown lucerne stand successfully establishes without any effects from autotoxicity.
Soil sample 6–12 months prior to planting, this will allow time for any soil pH or element corrections that may need to be implemented.
Have a well prepared seedbed prior to sowing, create a fine, firm seedbed clean of any weeds. Use a pre-emergent herbicide, especially for wireweed control and always insist on Superstrike™ treated seed for the best results. Monitor after sowing for any insect pests and weeds and manage them accordingly.
Weed infestation early in the life of a lucerne stand limits yield and hay quality. Growers need to know which weeds are expected and the likely impact they may have. Summer weeds are usually a greater challenge to lucerne seedlings than winter weeds in the establishment phase. Therefore, choosing the optimum sowing time is important. Generally there is less weed competition in sowings made between April and August. Seriously persistent perennial weeds such as nut grass, couch grass and Johnson grass can be controlled in a summer fallow preceding an autumn sowing by using appropriate cultivation in combination with herbicide treatments.
Grazing management is about finding a balance between yield, quality and persistence, especially with winter active and highly winter active lucerne varieties.
- For new stands – aim to maximise establishment. Pay attention to agronomy; don’t graze too early or for too long - limit the grazing time and intensity
- For production - schedule grazing to utilise feed when the plant is ready and the quality is high. Use a number of small paddocks and bigger mobs to promote even rotational grazing
- For persistence - rotationally graze. Don’t graze too hard, too often or for too long
- To avoid cattle bloat, nitrate poisoning and red gut - do not graze immature/fresh lush growth. Provide dry roughage (straw or lower quality hay) to hungry stock prior to grazing and for the duration that the stock are grazing the higher quality lucerne
Rotational Grazed – Long Term
Number of Grazings
Minimum 350mm rainfall per annum unless irrigated