Evaluating different fertilisers in lucerne seed production

Lucerne Australia Inc.

  • Project code: PRJ-006081

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

  • Project completion date: Saturday, July 1, 2017

  • National Priority: PSE-Supporting production systems and agronomic advancements


The fertiliser program of the lucerne seed industry is in severe need of a re-visit. The only independent, publicly available, Australian data relating to fertiliser use in lucerne seed dates back to the 1960’s. Since that time the lucerne seed industry in all aspects has changed significantly. The fertilisers used in the trials from the 1960’s were generally based around single super and super potash.
Although there has been research conducted in North America in recent years looking at the effects of fertilisers on lucerne seed production, this research doesn’t look at which of the different forms of fertilisers and which will achieve the optimum result. The findings from such studies are aimed at establishing which nutrients will provide a yield benefit, but don’t suggest at which levels the benefits taper off or what the optimum application level may be. They also do not look at some of the newer and experimental forms of fertilisers available to producers.
Recently we have seen the availability of organic based (pelletised) fertilisers, foliar applied liquid fertilisers, new forms of inorganic fertilisers and composted and recycled materials. Most farmers are spending 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars per farm annually on fertilisers and most also admit that they are confused and unsure about what the best fertiliser is for their situation. The claims from suppliers are that certain types of fertiliser may increase soil carbon levels, some may increase soil biological activity, some will provide higher root growth rates, whilst others are claimed to decrease soil salinity. The truth is that individual farmers don’t have the capacity to test all of the options available, especially in a long term production phase such is the case for lucerne seed. In such a long term production phase (average 6 years) the positive or negative results accumulate. A fresh look at the way the lucerne seed industry uses fertilisers has been overdue for some time.


Pasture Seeds

Research Organisation

Lucerne Australia Inc.

Objective Summary

-Determine the nutrient requirement for producing lucerne seed (ie units of each nutrient per kg of seed).
-Determine the most effective type and rate of fertiliser to deliver nutrients to a lucerne seed crop to minimise nutrient lock-up in the soil and contamination of groundwater recharge.
-Evaluate the economic performances of a range of types and rates of fertilisers for lucerne seed production
-Determine the accumulated effects of the two above objectives in a long term production phase – as is the case for most lucerne seed production.
-Identify any side effects associated with the different types of fertilisers on lucerne seed production.
-This project would not look at summer trace element/foliar applications