23 | 03 | 2018


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It is not the general practice in South Africa to plant lucerne together with a grass component.

Apart from the fact that chemical weed control is impossible, the following are the main reasons for this:

  • Where lucerne is chiefly grown for hay, mixtures affect application of fertiliser, harvesting methods and quality.
  • Where it is grown for grazing, mixtures make management difficult in terms of frequency of grazing, fertilisation, and the eventual effect on the botanical composition of the pasture.

Because more vigorous and long-lived lucerne cultivars have been developed, as well as improved management practices, it is seldom the case today that the grass component predominates over the lucerne after a couple of seasons.

 The ideal legume:grass ratio of 30:70 in a mixture is determined by many factors, of which choice of species, planting date, sowing density, stand density, planting method (rows vs. broadcast), soil fertility, timing and height of grazing, are probably the most important.

From a plant-physiological point of view the tendency of the lucerne and the grass to compete for light, water, and nutritional elements, are further factors deter-mining the success of a mixture.

The cultivation and management of mixtures is therefore complex, more so as research results in SA are also limited. The advantages of establishing mixtures cannot be denied:

  • Yield is higher with lucerne mixtures than with pure lucerne
  • Nitrogen fixed by Rhizobium is available for the grass component (especially under grazing), and little or no N supplementation is needed during the season.
  • The quality of feed intake is more balanced, as the lucerne component provides the protein and the grass component the roughage requirements of the ruminant.
  • There is less danger of bloat because of the higher roughage-fibre intake from the grass component.


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