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Lucerne And Its Imporatance In Australia

3217 words - 13 pages

Lucerne is one of the world's most important forage crops. It is regaining popularity as a nitrogen source and as a perennial crop in sustainable low input agriculture. Lucerne is deep-rooted and one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world today. It is grown from tropical to temperate climates across Australia.Lucerne is grown widely under dryland farming conditions or irrigation for grazing, green feed, hay and silage. It also plays an important part in pasture mixes with associated grasses.Importance in Australia and QueenslandThe horse industry is one of Australia's biggest industries and is worth more than $15 billion per annum. There are more than 1.2 million horses used for racing, equestrian sports, and recreation and there is a large breeding industry, with Australia producing the second highest number of Thoroughbred foals in the world, after the USA. This is why it is important to have a high supply of Lucerne Hay available as a supplement feed for our horses and livestock.Lucerne hay production in Queensland, under irrigated conditions, is generally a 'steady but sure' cropping enterprise that rarely shows impressively high cash returns.It is presently produced in Queensland for the domestic market and for own farm use. The majority is sold mainly to individual producers that deal directly with users. However, a generous portion of the total is sold through produce merchants and/or agents.At this stage, very little, if any lucerne hay produced in Queensland is exported. Export customers demand consistent supplies of high quality hay. This is a severe challenge for growers in the Queensland environment, where haymaking conditions during summer can be more unreliable than those in more southern parts of Australia.The live cattle export industry, is currently a heavy user of lucerne "cubes", a high density compressed lucerne hay product. Despite very large numbers of live cattle being exported through north Australian ports, this market is not currently being supplied with lucerne cubes from Queensland.Growth and DevelopmentLucerne is a perennial crop and is preferably sown between April and June, but if summer weeds aren't expected to compete strongly with the young Lucerne, August to September is the preferred sowing time, except on light soils in western areas as soil moisture may be limited.Spring planting of less winter active varieties of Lucerne often enables them to establish more strongly in less weedy situations. Late Summer Sowing in pasture mixes is also suitable provided that a fungicide is applied to control damping-off disease in new seedlings.Lucerne is generally sown by broadcaster, or by seed drill, then lightly covered by harrows. Lucerne can be drilled into moist soil to a depth of 5cm.The requirements of crop nutrition tend to vary with the soil type. The best Lucerne production occurs on deep, well-drained soils with neutral to mildly alkaline (7pH - 9pH) pH levels and good soil levels of Phosphorous, Potassium,...

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