Back Consider planting lucerne in autumn

Date: 12 May 2014

Growers in warmer districts should consider planting their lucerne stands this autumn according to Raewyn Densley, Forage and Nutrition Specialist for Pioneer® brand seeds.

"Autumn planted lucerne crops have the winter to establish a good root system and tend to give higher first year yields than spring established crops" says Densley. "In drier districts, sowing in the autumn enables the seedling plant to become well established prior to the risk of summer moisture stress".

Lucerne seeds begin to germinate after absorbing around 125% of their weight in water. They can germinate at temperatures greater than 2° Celsius, however the optimum germination temperature is higher.

"Plan to plant after the first autumn rain" says Densley. "At this time of the year soils will be warm enough to promote faster water movement into the seed and a quicker and more even germination".

Crops planted in cooler districts generally require a minimum of six weeks growth before a killing frost. This will enable the plant to form a crown and store root reserves for winter survival and spring regrowth. For this reason spring planting is the preferred option for many South Island and Central Plateau growers.

Key management steps for the successful establishment of lucerne are:

• Spray out existing crop or pasture.
• Soil test to determine lime and fertiliser inputs.
• Cultivate to achieve a fine, even, weed-free seed bed.
• Apply a pre-plant grass and broadleaf herbicide prior to the final cultivation.
• Plant seed to a maximum depth of 25mm (6-12mm on clay soils).
• Plant Nitragin* Plus treated 54V09 lucerne seed at 12-18 kg/ha.
• Roll-seed-roll to ensure good seed to soil contact.

"Nitragin* Plus offers significant benefits to local growers" says Densley. "It is a light (9%) lime coating delivering more pure seed for every kilogram of coated seed, and it has a guaranteed Rhizobium shelf-life of two years from coating".

Nitragin* Plus combines superior strains of naturally selected nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium) with Apron XL® fungicide which is effective against seedling fungal diseases. Three stage layering maintains separation between the fungicide and the Rhizobium and minimises dust, making planting easier, more accurate and safer.

Released in 2010, 54V09 combines excellent winter-hardiness with high resistance to major New Zealand lucerne diseases such as Phytophthora Root Rot, Verticillum Wilt, Bacterial Wilt and Stem Nematode. 54V09 is also resistant to spotted aphid and highly resistant to pea aphid.

"The combination of excellent disease resistance and a low crown makes 54V09 an excellent choice for grazing as well as cut-and-carry systems" says Densley.

For more information on Pioneer® brand 54V09, Nitragin* Plus or to receive your complimentary copy of the Pioneer® brand Lucerne manual which provides detailed technical information on all aspects of lucerne management click here, or call us toll-free on 0800 PIONEER (0800 746 633)