Winter lucerne management optimizes spring production

Addressing weed and nutrient issues in lucerne stands now will ensure a clean, healthy, high-quality forage crop in spring.

Andrew Johnston from Luisetti Seeds says stands should be grazed hard in May (he suggests using high body condition score ewes or dry hoggets), removing all green plant material and as much dead organic matter at the base of the crop as possible – as this can harbour pests and diseases.

He says it is important plant material is reduced to the extent that the ground is exposed. This maximises the efficacy of the subsequent herbicide application.

The weeds farmers should be targeting in their lucerne are annual and perennial ryegrasses and annual broadleaf weeds. Andrew recommends using Paraquat and Atranex at the rate recommended by a Luisetti Seeds agronomist who can devise an appropriate mixture for your own situation.

June is also a good time to test soil nutrient levels as lucerne has specific requirements, including a soil pH of around 6.  Sulphur, potassium, boron, molybdenum and sodium levels should also be checked and deficiencies corrected to ensure nutrients are not limiting production.

“Lucerne’s key requirements are a lack of weed competition and adequate fertility. Get these right and growers will be rewarded with a bank of very high-quality feed to drive lactation, lamb growth rates and optimise production in that vital spring period.”

Andrew says with the correct management, growers should get eight years out of a lucerne stand, but there are “stitch-in” options once plant populations start to decline to help maximise drymatter production before the stand is renewed.

This winter, ensure a Luisetti Seeds agronomist visits your lucerne stand to make recommendations on herbicides, fertiliser, grazing management and extending the life of your lucerne stand.