For the best germination and establishment, lucerne should be sown into soils which are warmed up already (soil temperature >10 °C). Depending on the area and conditions, sowing usually takes place between mid-March and end of April in spring, or in August as second option. In colder areas, sowing should be completed before half August to prevent winter damage in the first year.
After sowing in springtime, up to two cuts can be harvested in the sowing year. If sowing in August, look out for snail damage (particularly after winter wheat).
The general seed rate for Yellow Jacket lucerne seeds is 25 kg per hectare. This is to ensure an establishment of at least 300 plants per m2 after germination. Higher seed rates (30 kg/ha) are recommended under difficult sowing conditions, or if mechanical weed control is planned.
If weed problems are expected, a narrow row distance (<10 cm) should be applied. Using a sowing machine with broadcasting coulters will give better spreading of the plants. This will give weeds less of a chance.
At low expected weed pressure, larger row distances (up to 22 cm) can be used to apply mechanical weed control (harrowing machine).
With the help of Rhizobium bacteria in the root nodules, the lucerne plant will fix nitrogen from the air. For this reason, no additional nitrogen needs to be added.
However, Rhizobium bacteria are not freely available in all soils, so it may be necessary to add inoculants during sowing. Even better is to use seeds treated with Rhizobium inoculants. Barenbrug provides the seed with Yellow Jacket Nitrogenerator seed treatment for perfect establishment and nitrogen fixation during growth. The use of inoculated seeds is generally recommended.
Seed-soil contact is essential for fast germination. If a sowing machine without compacter/roller is used, extra rolling is advised to compact the upper soil level. Especially if no rain is foreseen in the days after sowing.
After establishment, weeds should be controlled in an early stage. Annual weeds can be removed by an early cut (topping) – cut as soon as possible, but cut the weeds only. Mechanical control, with a harrowing/weeding machine, is also possible once the lucerne is well established. Especially chickweed and shepherd’s pure can be controlled by these measurements.
It is possible to apply herbicides, but lucerne is susceptible to many contact herbicides. Therefore, care should be taken and contacting an expert is recommended. It is known that bentazone and MCPA can be used in alfalfa, if the right dosage and application is used (not allowed in each country, contact your supplier).
General sowing guidelines
|Sowing period||Seed rate||Sowing depth||Row distance|
|Mid-March till May or in August||