Wet? Sure is! Did you just say it is time to plant Lucerne? Sure, and why not? The only thing stopping the operation beginning should be the traffic-ability of the paddock: if it’s too wet to drive across, it’s too wet for planting.
The soil temperature is usually the next consideration as we come out of winter. If the soil temperature at a depth of 10 cm is around 8oC to 9oC and rising, then that box is ticked.
Next? Weeds! What are they? Are they the usual suspects? Have all the expected germinations occurred? If all of these boxes are ticked, then it’s go in for the kill –so to speak. Naturally, some, or almost all of the planning has already been done before this stage. But hey! Important as planning is, that in the past so that now it is time for the best part – planting!
When you are working the ground, have the required herbicide on hand, and, if you are direct drilling, make sure that the chemical is ready to go.
Oh, I almost got ahead of myself! What variety to plant? Sometimes it seems this part is more challenging, with more options available to you than selecting your dinner in an order-by-numbers restaurant! When making the decision to plant Lucerne, what was the most important characteristic that drew you to making that decision? Another way of looking at it is to ask, how does the Lucerne plant add value to the current livestock system? For instance, in a prime lamb grazing system, the usual response is that Lucerne provides certainty to the spring growth and extends the period of quality feed. I believe it is useful to then relate all the other considerations back to the effect on the key characteristic. So, persistence of the stand, winter growth habit, disease and insect resistance, leaf to stem ratio and its versatility as a hay crop can all be considered in relation to the effect they have on the key point. I think that there will quite quickly only be a few varieties left for you to select from. Finally, what is the variety already being successfully grown in the district, on a similar soil type and under a similar grazing system? Decision made! Don’t spend any more time on this decision than on any other.
So, make sure nutrient requirements are in place, possible soil constraints have been reviewed and weed and insect potential issues are covered and you’re right to go!
Remember, when it comes to sowing, a day early is much better than a day late!
Blog by Peter Flavel.