Sand Lucerne

Sand Lucerne (Medicago media), sometimes designated Medicago falcata, is probably simply a variety of the common alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Some botanists, however, look upon these as two distinct species. Others believe that Medicago sativa, with blossoms ranging from blue to violet purple, and Medicago

falcata, with yellow blossoms, are two distinct species, while Medicago media, with blossoms ranging from bluish and purple to lemon yellow, is a hybrid between these. The name Sand Lucerne has doubtless been given to this plant because of the power which it has to grow in sandy soils. Sand lucerne is so nearly like common alfalfa in appearance and habits of growth, that until the blossoming season, careless observers cannot distinguish between the plants. (See page 114.) Sand lucerne, however, has a more spreading habit of growth than common alfalfa, the seed-pods are less coiled and the seeds are lighter. The root system is strong and the roots are probably more branched than those of ordinary alfalfa. Under Michigan experience, given in Bulletin No. 198 of the Michigan Experiment Station, it has shown considerably higher adaptation to light, sandy and gravelly soils than the former. The feeding properties of sand lucerne would not seem to be far different from those of common alfalfa (see page 119), but it is claimed that the former is considerably less liable to produce bloat in cattle and sheep than the latter. Sand lucerne is probably native to Europe and Asia. Some attention is given to growing it in Germany, the principal source from which comes supplies of seed at the present time. It was introduced into Michigan by the experiment station of that State in 1897, and its behavior in several trials made to grow it on sandy and gravelly soils in various places, has, on the whole, been encouraging. Since this variety, like the Turkestan, being considerably hardier than common alfalfa, can undoubtedly be grown further north than the latter, there would seem to be no reasons at the same time why sand lucerne would not grow satisfactorily on sandy soils that lie far south, but this does not seem as yet to have been proved by actual demonstration. It is possible, therefore, that this plant may render considerable service to areas scattered over considerable portions of the United States and Canada, in which the soil is light. While sand lucerne has higher adaptation than common alfalfa for sandy and gravelly soils, it does not follow that it has equal adaptation for being grown on ordinary alfalfa soils. No advantage, however, would result from growing sand lucerne where common alfalfa will grow equally well, as it is not superior to the latter as a food, if, indeed, it is equal to the same, and there would be a distinct disadvantage in the greater cost of the seed of sand lucerne. Sand lucerne is not any more a rotation plant than the common variety. In fact, it is even less so, since it would not be practicable to introduce it into short rotations when grown in northerly latitudes, as it does not reach a maximum growth for several years after the seed has been sown. But in mild latitudes, it may be found practicable to introduce it into short rotations, like other alfalfa (see page 135), and on land that is too sandy to grow the common variety in the best form. Much of what has been said about the preparation of the soil for common alfalfa will equally apply to the preparation of the same for sand lucerne. (See page 137.) But when the latter is sown on sandy or gravelly land, a moist condition of the seed-bed at the time of sowing is even more important than when sowing common alfalfa under ordinary conditions. The same methods of sowing the seed will be in order as are suitable for sowing common alfalfa in any particular locality. (See page 147.) This will mean that in Northern areas sand lucerne can best be sown in the spring and as early as the danger from frost is over, that the plants may get as much benefit as possible from the moisture in the soil before dry weather begins. It will also mean that if sown southward in the autumn, it may in some instances be necessary to wait longer for the sandy soils on which the seed is sown to become sufficiently moist to sprout the seed than for such a condition in soils on which common alfalfa is usually sown. The amounts of seed to sow will also be practically the same. (See page 152.) The adaptation of sand lucerne for providing pasture is as high, if not, indeed, higher, than that of common alfalfa, since it is said that it has less tendency to produce bloat in cattle and sheep, and it is not so easily destroyed, at least in Northern areas, by grazing. In providing pasture, its higher adaptation is in furnishing the same for cattle, swine and horses. With ample moisture, even as far north as Lansing, Michigan, three crops of hay may ordinarily be looked for. At the Michigan Experiment Station, sand lucerne sown in 1897 yielded cured: In 1898, at the rate of 6800 pounds per acre; in 1899, 10,580 pounds; in 1900, 12,310 pounds; and in 1901, 13,839 pounds. The methods of cutting and curing are the same as for other varieties of alfalfa. (See page 170.) The quality of the hay is not far different from that of common alfalfa. If there is a difference, it would, perhaps, be a little against the sand lucerne, owing to the nature of the land producing it. For soiling food, it may be handled in the same way as common alfalfa. (See page 166.) No further information would seem to be available with reference to the production of seed in the United States than the statement that the efforts to grow it in Michigan had not been altogether successful. The question thus raised has an important bearing on the future growth of the plant, as, if seed is to be imported from Europe when sand lucerne is to be sown, the expense of securing seed is likely to militate against extending its growth. It is probable, however, that this difficulty will be overcome through the more perfect acclimation of the plants in the North, or by growing seed from the same in Western areas which have shown higher adaptation to the production of alfalfa seed. The value of sand lucerne in fertilizing sandy and gravelly soils in this country may yet be very considerable. Its value in putting humus into the same may prove equally high. This value will arise chiefly from its greater ability to grow on such soils than various other legumes. When sown primarily for such a use, heavy seeding would seem to be preferable to ordinary seeding.

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