Lucerne - When to rotate?

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

How to decide when it is time to terminate your current Lucerne crop. What are the signs and guidelines?


Written by Dirk Coetzee


When a Lucerne stand does not produce acceptably anymore, rotating to another crop should be considered before establishing again. To rotate to another crop should be based on production performance, however, evaluating and quantifying the stand density will give a good indication on what the production potential is.


Lucerne has the ability to produce maximum yield over a wide range of stand densities, with individual plants compensating for lower stand density by producing more tillers. A tiller density is therefore a much better indicator of possible stand performance than plant density.


For new stands, plant density can be evaluated. There should be about 270 - 320 seedlings per square meter after establishment.

Plants compete with each other resulting in stands thinning with time.

Tiller densities below 420 per square meter is normally an indicator of yields starting to decrease. It has been recorded that 35 - 45 healthy plants per square meter can still produce this number of tillers under good management. Under most conditions at least 65 - 75 plants per square meter are required to produce this number of tillers.


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