Winter management for Lucerne stands
Date: 19 June 2017
A well-managed lucerne stand can be invaluable for farmers on dry land or irrigated farms.
A high-yielding crop of great nutritional value, a well-managed lucerne stand may only need to be replaced every 5-6 years, so good management is key to ensure it lasts the distance.
Winter management of lucerne crops is predominantly related to weed control, as winter is a key time to weed spray the lucerne and take soil tests. It is recommended to hard-graze the stand with a large mob from the end of May to early June. The purpose of this is to remove any remaining growth. It helps with the control of over-wintering aphids, and sets the stand up for better weed control.
Late herbicide application can damage developing lucerne buds, so typical lucerne winter herbicides should be applied from 25 June to mid-July. It should occur after the shortest day (22 June), and around 10 days after the last grazing.
The accumulation of vegetative nodes after winter allows rapid stem elongation and dry matter production in spring and we don’t want to be damaging these with late herbicide application.
Removal of the growing point during late winter/early spring will reduce the potential production of the lucerne for the entire spring period.
As a large amount of nutrients are removed from the lucerne stand each season, it is important to monitor soil and plant tissue to ensure the requirements of base nutrients, such as potassium and lime, are being met.
While winter management of lucerne is critical for yield and persistence, good management starts right from the seed – so it is important farmers choose the right variety.
Pioneer® brand lucerne varieties are the result of an on-going breeding programme focused on improved yield, better disease resistance and increased stand persistence.
With a Pioneer lucerne variety and a good winter crop management strategy, you can be confident you’ll develop a high-yielding crop of dense nutritional value, which will support your cattle through the summer dry.