THIS IS ONE OF THE OLDEST FORAGE CROPS KNOW TO MAN, DATING BACK 4000 YEARS.
The Roman Armies used to carry Lucerne with them to grow the crop where they settled and to feed their horses.
Why grow Lucerne?
It produces high quality proteins 18-20% with a reasonable energy and it’s a good match for maize. First with the high fertilizer and protein prices, Lucerne can be a very profitable way of feeding your stock.
As a legume, the seed requires inoculants to aid germination. It is important to mix the inoculants just before planting and then it must be used within 3 days of planting as the inoculant is live.
It is important to get the correct plant population the first time around as patching up an established crop doesn’t usually work. When sown in the spring, it is important for the crop to flower in the first year of sowing. Some people plant a light sowing of Spring Barley with the crop, so the first cut will be a mix.
Fertilizer for Establishment
In general Lucerne requires no nitrogen either in the establishment or subsequently, this is because it’s a legume and so, able, by association with bacteria, to fix nitrogen into the soil for its own use. It will leave residual nitrogen for use by subsequent crops, however, if the Lucerne is following a particularly hungry rotation (e.g cereals) a small quantity may be beneficial./
If slurry is applied before drilling this usually provides sufficient nitrogen in organic form but note that excess nitrogen application will inhibit root nodulation and reduce the Lucerne’s ability to fix nitrogen into the soil.