Managing Dryland Lucerne - Grower's Handbook
Lucerne Pastures in the Wimmera
Take Home Message
Although Wimmera lucerne growers are happy with their lucerne stands, there is room for improvement for many growers in most aspects of lucerne management. Soil limitations, weed management and grazing management are stressing issues.
Integrating lucerne into various farming systems is another issue which needs to be considered by Wimmera growers.
‘Lucerne for Recharge Control in the Wimmera’ is a National Action Plan funded project. It aims to promote lucerne as a viable option (economically & environmentally) for the farming systems in the Wimmera.
Forty-two lucerne growers representing Wimmera regions have been directly interviewed. They have provided answers to ‘why?’, ‘what?’ and ‘how?’ questions clarifying various aspects of their experiences with lucerne. As part of the project procedure, hundreds of soil samples were obtained from about 50 lucerne sites. These samples are under analysis to identify potential soil factors affecting lucerne establishment and persistence.
An assessment of the information obtained from the interviewees has shown that: There are about 50 lucerne growers in the Wimmera, managing about 100 lucerne paddocks covering less than 2400 hectares. The majority of these growers have less than ten years experience with lucerne; more than a half of them (54%) have less than five years experience.
Although all the lucerne growers are satisfied with their lucerne performance, only three growers consider ‘lucerne’ as an ‘integral part’ of their farming systems.
More than one-quarter of total lucerne paddocks have a size of less than 10 ha. More than a half of lucerne paddocks are less than 20 ha. At the other end, six lucerne paddocks ‘over 60 ha each’ occupy nearly one-quarter of the lucerne area (see Table 1 for more detail).
|Paddock size (ha)||0-10||11-20||21-30||31-40||41-50||51-60||61-80||81-100||Total|
|No. of paddocks||24||22||12||9||5||8||4||2||86|
|% of all paddocks||28||26||14||10||6||9||5||2||100%|
|Paddock category area||177||293||345||298||187||320||358||184||2,162|
|% of the total area||8||13.5||16||13.5||8.5||15||17||8.5||100%|
Table 1. Size and number of lucerne paddocks in the Wimmera
Two-thirds of the lucerne stands (65%) have limiting soil factors. Acidity is a major issue for nearly one-third (31%) of lucerne stands. Waterlogging and salinity affect partly 18 and 16 per cent of the Wimmera lucerne stands respectively.
More than two-thirds of lucerne stands in the Wimmera have weed problems. Capeweed, wild radish and grasses were the main weeds reported.
Grazing management is a problem in one-quarter (24%) of the lucerne stands. Poor grazing practices include: set-stocking and over-grazing; uneven grazing; and practices associated with animal fatality.
|Problem||Acidic Soils||Weeds||Grazing||Salinity||Paddock Size||Redgut||Over-Cropping||Chemical Residues|
Table 2. Challenges of managing lucerne in the Wimmera
The data also reveals that a Wimmera lucerne farmer would look at lucerne as ‘a reliable quality pasture provider’, ‘a soil protector and builder’, ‘a weed terminator and controller’, ‘a risk manager’ and much more (see Tables 1 & 2 & Figure 1 for more detail).
Figure 1. Reasons for growing lucerne in the Wimmera (farmer views) (42 growers)
To view the other chapters of Managing Dryland Lucerne - Grower's Handbook