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Alfalfa: growing tips for the queen of fodder legumes

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Grassland on Thursday, May 11th, 2017 - 2:00 p.m. (comment now)

Deep, easily warm soils and an almost neutral pH value: These are some of the location requirements for alfalfa. It is still important to pay attention to this.

The alfalfa needs deep, easily warm locations and an almost neutral pH value. Lucerne not only places high demands on the soil, but also on use and ensiling. If the legumes are successfully established, good yields can be expected. Whether there is more protein or more structure in the food depends on the time of cutting.

If cultivation and development conditions are good, the alfalfa provides a feed rich in protein, lysine and vitamins. Due to its relatively high crude fiber content, which it already has at a young age, it is only certified as having a medium energy concentration. However, the fiber digestibility is better than expected. In addition, the alfalfa is characterized by a good structural effectiveness.

The Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture recommends the following when cultivating alfalfa and grass:

Alfalfa: demands on climate and soil

  • The alfalfa, which needs warmth, prefers warm areas with sufficient sunshine and an annual mean temperature of over 8.5 ° C.
  • It develops best on deep, easily heatable and water-permeable soils with almost neutral pH values.
  • As a result of the deep rooting (tap root and root network), periods of drought are usually survived well. Against the background, their water requirement is not as high as for red clover.

Lucerne: this is important to note before growing

  • Before establishing the alfalfa, the soil pH value must be checked. Systematic liming is recommended so that supply level C is ensured. Experience shows that a germ bed liming on the autumn furrow has a positive effect on the development of young people when it is shallowly incorporated.
  • A well-separated, finely crumbly seedbed must be prepared for the fine seeds for the alfalfa.
  • Intensive weed control should be carried out before sowing, as the alfalfa develops slowly and no herbicides are currently approved for the fruit type.
  • Sowing is possible from April to the end of July.
  • It is important that the alfalfa can establish itself well in the sowing year in order to achieve sufficient winter hardiness. Against this background, early sowing is preferable.
  • Blank seeds are considered cheaper, but seeds under cover crops have also proven their worth.
  • With pure seeds, the alfalfa needs breaks of 5 to 6 years, because it is incompatible with itself and with other legumes.
  • The crop rotation must also be observed when growing alfalfa grass and cultivation breaks of 2 to 3 years must be allowed.

Alfalfa: choice of variety

Due to the relatively short supply of seeds, particular attention should be paid to seeds inoculated with nodule bacteria and to the information provided by the Federal Plant Variety Office on disease resistance.

If, for example, wilting occurs in alfalfa, this can lead to total failures.

Alfalfa: basic fertilization and nitrogen fertilization

As a rule, the basic fertilization must be adapted to the withdrawal.

  • For the first cultivation experience in practice and average yields of 100 dt DM / ha, the guideline values ​​of 100 kg P2O5 / ha and 240 kg K2O / ha and year can be used for the time being. The potash fertilizer should preferably be applied and incorporated at least three weeks before sowing, because alfalfa seedlings are sensitive to potash salts. It is therefore recommended to apply PK fertilization prior to sowing.
  • Lucerne also places high demands on molybdenum and boron, which it needs for the development of nodule bacteria. Therefore, the two micronutrients should also be checked when examining the soil sample.
  • N-fertilization can be dispensed with for lucerne seeds. Only on soils poor in N is it worth starting with N of 30 to 50 kg N / ha. N fertilization in the years of use is uneconomical. This also applies to alfalfa with legume proportions over 30 percent. Only with lower legume proportions should N fertilization be carried out, the height of which is based on the grass proportions.

Maintenance measures in the sowing year

In the year of sowing, all measures are to be taken that promote rapid stand formation.

  • In addition to the previous basic fertilization measures, this also includes shallow seed drills in a well-separated, fine-crumbly seedbed and a possible rolling of the seed.
  • If the weeds develop faster than the legume, the weeds can be countered with a cupping cut. The cutting unit must be set so high that only the weeds are caught. Every run over the alfalfa damages the plant.
  • The first pruning should take place no earlier than 75 days after sowing or at the beginning of the alfalfa bloom. During this period, the plant develops not only above ground, but also below ground.
  • In general, it is recommended for the sowing year as well as for the following years of use to take a break of about 50 days between the last and the penultimate cut. The alfalfa can also come into full bloom once, especially in the sowing year. If this resting phase is not observed, this has a negative effect on the stand density and performance.

Use of alfalfa

After a good establishment phase in the sowing year, alfalfa can withstand intensive use.

  • The optimal period of use is based either on the phenological development or on the height of the stand.
  • Alfalfa supplies a lot of protein in the early bud stage.
  • If the alfalfa is to serve as a structural supplier, the development can be awaited until flowering.

The time of use of alfalfa is based on the main stock creators.

  • If the grasses predominate in the stand, use at the beginning of ear emergence is recommended.
  • When mowing, the cutting height should not be less than 8 cm. Too deep a cut damages the aboveground rhizome, reduces the number of sprouts and thus the density of the stand.
With material from LWK Lower Saxony

These legumes can be greened