Winter management important to maximise lucerne’s spring potential

// Forage Cropping

Lucerne is a valuable spring and summer forage crop, but to maximise yield, stands should be spelled over autumn and weed control undertaken in early winter.

image of lucerne

It is important to spell lucerne over autumn as this allows depleted root reserves to be replenished.

Once frosts have stopped growth, typically in May or June, the stands should be grazed hard by a large mob of sheep to remove all green leaf. Ideally, once grazed, a rainfall will remove all dirt from the surface area of the lucerne plant and weeds before herbicides are applied. Dirt can deactivate agrichemicals.

The stands should be sprayed 14 days after grazing. Agrichemical selection depends on the age of the stand, what grazing pressure it has been subjected to and the weed profile.

Standard weed control options may include paraquat, atrazine, simazine and terbuthylazine but seek advice from an agronomist or spray contractor.

As it is the node accumulation of the stem that sets up the lucerne plant to reach its potential in spring, a late spray or early grazing can significantly delay spring production and impact on yield.

In spring, the crop can rotationally grazed with ewes and lambs from when it is around 20cm high (1,500kg DM/ha).


For more information on winter management of lucerne go to:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Lucerne Advice via Text Message

Get updates to your phone that'll help you get the best out of the drought-tolerant forage from Professor Derrick Moot, plus you can send in your own questions.

Sign up for free at (you’ll need to create an account on the B+LNZ website if you don’t already have one).