26 | 04 | 2018


Seed Production PDF Print E-mail
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Seed Production
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Regions characterised by warm sunny summers with little or no summer rain are ideal for production of lucerne seed.

Such a climate encourages the flowering of lucerne and provides favourable conditions for bee pollination and ripening of the seed, which must occur under dry conditions to prevent it becoming discoloured.

Successful lucerne seed production is influenced by the following factors, among others:

  • Efficient pollination
  • Thorough insect control
  • Correct irrigation during the flowering periods

With the exception of weather conditions, the producer has a reasonable degree of control over factors influencing seed production.

In South Africa most lucerne seed is produced in the lower Orange River, Little Karoo and Calvinia districts.

Producers of certified seed must register with the Directorate Plant and Quality Control (Dept Agric) according to the Plant Improvement Act.

Information about this matter will be provided by the company with which you sign a contract.

Choice of soil and preparation for seed production

Well-drained soil with few soluble salts and the potential for roots to grow to 1.5 m or more, is ideal for production of lucerne seed under irrigation.

Deep clay soil, clayey loam or sandy clay soil with a high water retention capacity is preferable to sandy soil.

Soil with hard stony layers or shallow clay layers near the surface should be avoided.

Uniform soil texture will reduce the differences in development between plants.

Problems with weeds and the cost of combating them can be reduced by well-planned rotation systems and cultivation.

Land infested with perennial grass weeds such as Bermuda grass/kweek (Cynodon dactylon), Johnson grass (Sorghum sp.), etc., should be avoided, or else the weeds brought under control before sowing time.

Planting date

In most lucerne seed producing areas, lucerne is sown in the autumn. This gives the maximum seed yield in the first year of production.

Planting method

Everywhere in the world lucerne planted for seed is sown in rows, as this gives the highest seed production. The low seed production in dense stands can be partially attributed  to low production of
nectar, lack of attraction for pollinators and increased abortion of flowers.

Other advantages for row sowing are:

Plants grow more erect and are therefore more accessible to pollinators, there is more light, and soil and air temperatures are higher early in the season.
Flowering time is about 10 days earlier.
There is less lodging of plants and the lower humidity reduces the incidence of leaf diseases and the amount of waterdamaged seed compared to broadcast stands.
There is less loss of flowers and seeds.

It facilitates spraying against insects and weeds.
There is greater flexibility in the management of irrigation.
Less seed is needed to sow the same area.

The following spacing is recommended for single rows:
Sandy soil 20-150 cm
Loamy soil 75-100 cm
Heavy loam to clay 60-90 cm

It is recommended that the wider spacings should rather be used.


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