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Medicago sativa

AuthorityL.
FamilyMagnoliopsida:Rosidae:Fabales:Leguminosae
Synonyms
Common namesalfalfa, lucerne, common purple lucerne, common lucerne, purple alfalfa, purple medick, Spanish trefoil, blålusern, foder-lucerne, sinimailanen, Luzerne, luzerna, alfafa, luzerna de flor roxa, melga dos prados, medicagem dos pastos, lusern, Medicaginis herba
Editor
Ecocrop code1428



Notes
DESCRIPTION: Erect or ascending, much-branched glabrous perennial, 30-90 cm, with alternate trifoliate leaves; leaflets, 30 mm, narrowly obovate, toothed in upper third with a mucronate tip; stipules linear-lanceolate, usually serrate. Numerous stems originating from crown buds; as the stems develop, axillary buds formed in lower leaf axils produce further stems, which build up a crown of basal buds at their base. The crown is the main source of stems produced after defoliation; axillary buds above ground develop into branches. It is deep-rooted, 2-4 m, or more in deep, well-drained soils. About 60-70% of total root mass is in the upper l5 cm of the soil profile. Inflorescences are compact racemes up to 40 mm, borne in axils of upper leaves; purple florets, 8 mm, typically papilionacious. Cross-pollinated by various species of bees. Seedpods are spirally coiled, glabrous or pubescent; pods turn from green to brown as they mature, and contain 2-5 kidney-shaped, yellow or brown seeds. A proportion of the seeds are hard, probably inversely related to temperature during seed set. USES: It is one of the highest yielding forage legumes and requires deep, well-drained fertile soils to maximize its potential. The inherent growth characteristics and good yield response to infrequent cutting make lucerne a highly suitable species for conservation as hay or silage. It is mainly grown as a fodder crop. Chlorophyll is extracted from the leaves and the flowers are a source of honey. It is grow as a cover crop to reduce erosion. It is a nitrogen fixer and estimates of annual rates range from 85 to 360 kg N/ha with a wide variation among sites. It can be grown in combination with maize for silage. Its fibers can be used in the manufacture of paper. It has medicinal properties and a yellow dye and trypsin inhibitors can be extracted from the seeds. It is compatible with non-aggressive grasses. KILLING T.: 0oC during early growth and it is known to survive temperatures of ˆ25oC in Alaska and above 50oC in California. GROWING PERIOD: Perennial, lasting up to six years, but usually three to four years, growing 100-365 days per year. Spring to autumn, but main flush of growth in late spring/early summer. It is variable in winter dormancy. Winter-hardy types suited to cold regions have a longer dormancy period and shorter growing season than the less winter-hardy types suited to warm temperate regions. COMMON NAMES: Alfalfa, lucerne, sativa, blue alfalfa, common purple lucerne, common lucerne, purple alfalfa, purple medick, luzerne, alfacah, amara, bersim hadjazi, fecad, fesefca, kefiz, mendidjel, nefel, n'fel, rottba, sefca, safsafa, sofsfa, berseem hegaazi, gaddooh, qadaab, qadb, qarad, bersim hedjazi, fussa, barsim hijazi, duhrayjah, fussah, kutat, galeria, thua-anfanfa. FURTHER INF.: Widely distributed in temperate zones of the world, e.g. USA, southern Canada, Europe, China, southern Latin America and South Africa. The autotetraploid alfalfa originated from a diploid species, native to an area south of the Black and Caspian Seas. Alfalfa can be found up to 4000 m in elevation in Bolivia, but normally up to about 2400 m. In warm climates relative humidity should be low; hot and humid conditions promote diseases. The seed needs to be inoculated with an effective strain of Rhizobium meliloti, which requires a soil pH of at least 6.0. Lime-coated, inoculated seed has been used with success on more acid soils. More drought tolerant than other forage legumes such as red clover or birds foot trefoil. Deep-rooting ability is an important factor in drought tolerance and any adverse soil physical or chemical conditions, which restrict root growth will reduce drought tolerance. Compared with many forage species lucerne is an efficient user of water supply largely as a result of its deep taproot system. During severe drought, plants become dormant but resume growth when moisture becomes available Dry matter yields may be 10-20 t/ha. Seed yields vary from 50 to 750 kg/ha.
Sources
Grassland Index
Sims D (pers. comm.)
Roecklein J 1987 pp 135 [USE, FER, DRA, TEXT, PH]
Doorenbos J 1979 pp 69
Landon J 1984 pp 282 284 [TEXT, DRA, DEP, PH, FER, SAL, TEMP, PHO]
Hartmann T 1981 pp 233 [LIMIT, PH]
Maas E 1990 pp 273 [SAL]
Heath M 1985 pp 89-97 [KTMP, TEMP, DRA, FER, RAIN, USE]
Bryant P 1973 pp 358 [RAIN, DRA, KTMP, FER]
Kernick M 1978 pp 405-425 [KTMP, TEMP, RAIN, DRA, FER, PH, TEXT, DEP]
Duke J 1981 pp 157-161 [TEMP, RAIN, FER, TEXT, DRA, PH, SAL]
Mannetje L 1992 pp 163-164 [DEP, TEXT, PH, DRA]
Langer R 1991 pp 235-240 [PH, DRA, TEXT]