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Lucerne/alfalfa




  • History and economic importance. Lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) belongs to the Leguminosae family (Fig. 15.2). It is thought to have originated in Iran, from where it travelled to the Arab countries where it was called alfalfa, meaning ‘best fodder’. Afterwards, it was introduced in Europe and called ‘lucerne’ after Lake Lucerne in Switzerland where it was successfully cultivated in those days. Then it spread in 1650 AD. from England to North America and New Zealand. Within the next 150 years, it became a popular forage crop in many other countries including the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent.

    Lucerne is a multi-cut, perennial, legume forage crop. It is known as the ‘queen of fodders’ because of its distinctive and multiple characteristics. Alfalfa fodder contains protein (18%), carbohydrates (11%), fat (8%), minerals (6%), and fibre (30%). The dry matter is equally nutritious, having horses and mules. When mixed with bcrsccrn, oats provide balanced feed to milch animals.

    Climate and soil. The plant grows luxuriantly in cold and moist conditions. The area uIlde: this crop in NWFP is greater than in Bulochistan and Sindh. However. it can be gr owi; ‘ill all the cool and moist regions of Pakistan. It call he gnm’ll in all types of soil except alkaline and waterlogged soils. Clay loam soil produces the best crop.

    Seedbed preparation and manuring. One ploughing with a furrow turning plough and three to four with a local plough along with planking an: required to prepare a fine and pulvcr izcd seedbed. Generally no FYM is added to this crop, but 2Y2 bags or DAl? and 2~:: bags of urcu/ha should he
    applied at sowing to gct.a gm1d yield of fodder

    Seed rate and method of sowing. Recommended seed rates for fodder crops and seed crops are 75 kg/ha and 30 kg/ha, respectively. For late sowing. five percent additional seed is recommended. Sowing should prctcrnbl,be done by the /i.e/'{/· or pora method in rows 20 ern apart. Otherwise the seed should be broadcast uniformly all over the field. Sowing time. Early planting starts by the end of September and continues until mid-December.

    Interculture and weeding. Intcrculturc is generally not practised with this crop. The growth of weeds must be checked in the early stages of the crop by weeding if necl.)ssary.

    Irrigation. The first irrigation should he given 20 days after sowing. while subsequent irrigations arc applied as ,1I1d when needed. In all, three to four irrigations are sufficient for a fodder crop.                             Pests and diseases. Two pests, stcrnfly and whitefly, often attack the crop. If a seed crop is severely attacked it should be treated with Folidol or Thiodan @ 1200-1500 III I in 1000 I of water per hectare.

    Three diseases are common: (1) Helminthosporium leafspot, (2) loose smut, and (3) covered smut. As a preventive measure, treat the seed before sowing with Vitavex or Bcnlatc at 2.5 g per kg of seed. Rogue out and destroy the smut-affected cars. The disease-resistant cultivars ‘PD2-LV65’ and ‘Swan’ <ire recommended for·planting.

    Time of harvesting, Oat usually yields only one cutting of green fodder. Cutting when 25.-5()’,ic ofthe heads have formed usually gives the best yield subject to other conditions like lodging or pest or disease attack. Seed produetlon. Seed-crops require proper maintenance. To avoid lodging, irrigation done at the flowering stage should be light. 

    Varieties. For early planting, ‘Avon and ‘Kent” arc recommended. ‘PD2-LV65’ and ‘Swan’. arc suitable for medium to late planting. 

    Yield. The approved cultivars have a fodder yield potential of 75-80 t/ha; their seed yield varies from 1-2 t.ha. overgrowth may adversely affect seed yield. The crop is ready for harvest by the end of’May or early June. To avoid loss by shattering, the crop should be harvested when two-thirds of the pods dry up. 

    Varieties/types. Type 8 x 9 is a varietal mixture of types 8 and 9; it has semi-erect plants with dark foliage. Drier regions are better for seed pro- duction; in such areas a yield of 750-1000 kg seeds per hectare is possible.

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