Here are some Frequently Asked Questions we come across in calls and emails:
1. What is sheep lucerne?
Sheep lucerne is a name coined by a South African franchise. I believe they are referring to what is commonly called Weeping Tagasaste. It has the very same nutritional value as the Tree lucerne, but is smaller and multi-stemmed. It has not been widely propagated and there is not researched information to compare it with Tree lucerne as far as life span and drought resistance is concerned. Attempts to propagate it by seed have been unsuccessful in South Africa thus far.
2. What are the yields of the tree lucerne?
The yields per hectare per annum of dry feed is anything from 11-16 tonnes with good rains. This estimation would be for plantings of approx 1300 trees per hectare.
3. When should one plant the tree out from bags?
The very best is to wait till the tree is about 80cm in length and rabbits cannot get to their tops and the tree is strong enough to endure the extremes of both winter and summer.
4. Does it need irrigated water?
The young sapling cannot survive without water during summer. The tree will only be drought resistant or rain dependant at about 17 months old.
5. What soil types are best?
Deep soils, sandy, rocky or loam are all excellent soil types. The tree will not do well on level ground where the clay banks are close to the surface or on grounds where the water table is anywhere from surface to about 3m deep. Gradients are excellent and the run-off simulates well-drained soil.
6. Is there a preferred season to plant trees?
The size of the tree must determine the planting time, but planting in your wet season is the preferred season.
7. What are the stocking rates?
One must practise high impact grazing with stocking numbers of 200 sheep for 4-5 days on a hectare depending upon the availability of grasses between the trees. The grazing should be monitored as the sheep will eat the bark once the leaves and grass is finished.
8. Will planting Tree Lucerne be the answer to my grazing problems?
Yes and no. Yes – if your livestock count is in proportion to tree plantings. No – if you overstock your lands. This would be the case for many other grasses or animal fodder plantings. Yet the tree lucerne has really excellent immediate and long-term nutritional values and benefits – high protein levels, animals don’t get bloat, minimal mechanisation costs and it has a life span of 60-80 years. It re-defines the meaning of permanent grazing.
9. Will inoculating seed enhance germination and provide immunity and strength to young plants?
It may enhance germination, but to what extent is uncertain. The germ is exposed and is affected by moisture and temperature. The value of inoculation is developing the ability of the roots to take in Rhizobia correctly in order to fix nitrogen in the soils. Roots with pink nodules are known to be nitrogen-fixing. In most cases the conditions of germination and propagating will determine the health and growth of the seedling.
10. What is critical for germination?
Maintaining 22–24 degrees ground temperature in winter is critical. Coarse river sand mixed with sandy topsoil or compost for good drainage and keeping the soil from drying out. Seed depth should not be more than 10mm.
Trust that these answers help. You are welcome to ask or comment.