Lucerne research in the Wimmera conducted by the Victorian Institute for Dryland Agriculture adds the following findings to the lucerne-to-combat-dryland-salinity story:
- the risk of large crop losses following lucerne was low in country like the Wimmera with low summer rainfall; lucerne did not create a large soil-water deficit in the top metre of soil, which is the dominant rooting zone for most annual crops in the region
- lucerne improved the nitrogen supply to the following crops, although supplementary fertiliser was required to maximise yield and protein; more legumes in the pasture mix would alter the equation.
(NSW Agriculture studies have reported that, over a three-year period, lucerne-subclover mixtures produced from 420-510 kg nitrogen/ha compared with 143-177 kg/ha for phalaris-subclover combinations and 314 kg/ha for pure subclover stands. The sites were at Ardlethan and Junee.)
Researchers also noted:
- lucerne is valuable livestock feed
- farmers in the area are using lucerne rotations as a herbicide-resistance strategy; lucerne competes well with weeds, weeds can be sprayed out with nonselective herbicides and the lucerne will recover
- lucerne costs about $70/ha to establish, making a lucerne phase of at least three years worth considering.
Program 3.5.2 Contact: Dr Matthew McCallum 03 5362 2111