Drought & Heat ~ Lucerne Trees Bring Relief

The value of lucerne trees is that they keep your animals in good condition.

As the dry, hot summer burn the veld and grasses, and as grazing becomes more limited, our camped lucerne trees are a blessing and relief.

20160303_140753 Our Angus cattle spend the first few days eating the grasses and then move on to browse the lucerne trees. 20160303_140130Lucerne trees provide nitrogen-fixing in the soils which enhance the grasses growth, as well as providing shade and wind protection to keep soil moisture up after rains or irrigation.  20160303_140159While normal lucerne fields are our “food bank” where we cut, bale and store lucerne, the lucerne trees are an indispensable part of our grazing rotations.  20160303_140826It is never too late to start planting lucerne trees!

 

 

Benefits of pruning lucerne trees

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Pruned 16-month-old trees on the left compared to un-pruned trees on the right

Every time you prune your trees, you increase your trees carrying capacity.

Lucerne trees must not be grazed within their first 2 years, because the animals tear the branches and stunt the growth of these young trees.  The aim is to have a mature tree having a thick stem of about 280mm, but being no more than 1 meter in height. The result is thick 50-75mm branches carrying very dense foliage.  These branches are never grazed or damaged while the foliage is eaten off them.

Pruned 16-month-old trees
Pruned 16-month-old trees

Whenever you prune your trees, the roots prune themselves, fixing nitrogen in your soils.

Every pruning should give you up to 40kg of plant material off a 3-year-old tree.  In the case where you have established 2000 trees in a hectare, this will amount to 80 tonnes of silage!

Pruning is the most beneficial practice for the lucerne tree and it is an essential component of lucerne tree management.

Do NOT neglect to prune your trees!

 

10 month old Lucerne trees

These trees which were established in January are showing excellent growth at 10 months!

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They have not yet been grazed, but have been pruned twice to maintain 1m height and encourage lateral growth.  Pruning encourages the tree to bush and prevents the tree from growing too tall and spindly for your livestock to utilize.

Happy Farming!

Roots – your most important growth factor!

Many new lucerne tree farmers plant their seeds into shallow seed trays, but if you look at the following photos, you will realize that the roots are more aggressive in their growth than the leaves.

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In fact, those green leaves and shoots you see sprouting out of the soil is an indication of the depth of soil needed for the roots.

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This lucerne tree has an incredible tap root and side root structure. These seeds need deep 30cm trays or crates filled with coarse river sand.

Prune the growth tips of your small trees to encourage side branching when your tree reaches about 15cm.  You’ll soon notice new buds develop all along the stem!

Remember that you do not add any fertilizer to your potting soil.

When you plant out your seedlings, never pull the tree up out of the soil. This strips and damages the roots, especially the fine root hairs. Most transplanted trees with this type of damage do not survive. Rather scoop deep under the little trees and lay the seedlings on their sides loosely, and gently separate each seedling. Using a nice deep stick or dibber, make a suitably wide deep hole in the potting bag soil and gently ease the roots straight down into the hole. Gently firm the soil around your seedling and water.

When you plant out your potted trees, try preserve most the soil around the roots and make a suitable deep hole in the ground.  Fill the hole with water before placing your tree into the hole. Fill and gently firm the soil around the base.

Happy farming!

Four month old Trees

Myles and Zahn have been busy this summer!

Here are 5 hectares of 4-month-old Lucerne trees.

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They were planted under drip irrigation in January 2013 and are doing very well.

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Happy Farming!

Wonderful Feed

We have recently put a 100 ewes in half a hectare of 8-month-old trees which were established in August 201220130418_101730

The sheep grazed on these trees for 4 days, and devoured them!

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(Click to follow us – we’ll share the “after” photos soon!)

What we must consider is that the trees are only 8 months old and there are absolutely no grasses between the trees. The Lucerne trees were the sole grazing.

By next year the same hectare will give us 12 day’s grazing when some grasses are established between the trees.

Happy farming!