More best bets for lucerne

Lucerne research at Tamworth points to the need for a thoughtful, balanced approach to produce benefits for the whole farming system. Here are some tips.

Lucerne seedlings are small — they need care during the establishment year.

Weed control

  • Build a weed control strategy into the production system.
  • Cheaply control many problem weeds by using pre-emergent herbicides prior to sowing.
  • Consult booklets, agronomists and resellers for specific advice and management practices.
  • ALWAYS read the label before using a chemical, apply at the correct weed/crop stage, observe withholding periods, note safety precautions and record all operational details.

Choosing varieties

  • A winter-active or highly winter-active lucerne is best for autumn sowings.
  • A winter-active or highly winter-active lucerne is generally best for crop rotations in the north.
  • Long-term stands and challenging environments need types with less winter-activity.
  • Sow at least the recommended rate of good-quality certified seed.
  • Inoculate seed and use ‘APRON’ fungicide (especially if autumn sowing).

Soil nutrients

  • Use soil tests, tissue test and paddock records to diagnose likely limitations.
  • Inoculate seed to ensure lucerne can fix its own nitrogen.
  • Monitor/estimate dry matter removal and put back nutrients removed by the lucerne.

Rotational grazing/cutting

  • Avoid cutting or grazing too soon after establishment, especially on sandy soils.
  • Graze early if weed competition is great or if the companion crop is too thick or lodged.
  • Allow to reach full flowering unless excessive leaf drop follows a dry spell.
  • Rotationally graze to maintain energy reserves (see below).
  • Manage bloat using best practice and be aware of other livestock health issues with lucerne.
  • Best system is 2-3 weeks graze, 5-6 weeks rest (or until 10 per cent flowering).
  • Allow lucerne to fully flower whenever possible (and before a stress period).


  • Remove lucerne when it’s too good to remove and when you want to, not when you have to!
  • Use latest tips for removal to give more reliable results.
  • Remove early enough to replenish soil moisture (and allow N release) for following crops.

Programs 3.5.1, 3.6.1 Contact: Dr Rex Williams 02 6763 1100