Field management

There are several actions which can be done to improve lucerne stand life and productivity. The control of weeds and prevention of winter damage is important. Therefor the plant density of lucerne plants is decisive. In a good stand, the following stand density should be aimed for:

European climate zones

Depending on the climate zones, Barenbrug offers various Lucerne products. Every product has its own features suitable for different conditions.

Overseeding

Overseeding lucerne seeds in an existing lucerne field is absolutely ineffective. The reason behind this is that lucerne plants excrete a chemical substance (Medicarpin) which kills young lucerne seedlings.

The only way to extend production period of a thin stand is to overseed with grasses or clovers. An annual solution is to use Italian ryegrass (15-20 kg/ha) and berseem clover (5-10 kg/ha). For a perennial solution overseeding with NutriFibre tall fescue (25-40 kg/ha) with red clover (5-10 kg/ha) is a great option. Overseeding is ideally done in early spring or autumn, when lucerne growth is slow and there’s time and space for establishment.

Irrigation

Lucerne survives long periods of drought very well, but is producing maximally when sufficient water is available. Field irrigation is a good method to improve yield in summer. Irrigation is ideally done shortly before harvest. This allows the lucerne to regrow directly after harvest, and additionally the soil dries out after harvest which minimizes weed germination in an open stand.

Weed control

Weeds are usually killed easier in a young stage. Make sure to use herbicides which won’t harm the lucerne plants, and use them in the right period. It is known that bentazone and MCPA can be used in alfalfa, if the right dosage and application is used (not allowed in each country, contact your herbicide supplier).

Winter/early spring management

Cultivation with a toothed harrow is a good method to remove weeds, and stimulate some plant tillering. Only in established weeds. This should be done in late winter, when the plants aren’t active yet. If harrowing is done after plants have started growing, severe crown damage can occur. Grazing with sheep in winter can be an option to remove remaining canopy and help to control weed. However, continuous grazing and grazing under wet conditions can cause much damage, so care should be taken.

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