Growing pasture legumes
There are various options for incorporating hard‑seeded pasture legumes in your system. These include:
- Sow them as a standalone pasture using scarified seed in mid to late autumn. Standalone sowing produces the highest seed yield and seed size, leading to improved persistence and production.
- Summer sowing involves the sowing of unscarified or in-pod seed in mid to late summer. The high summer temperature breaks down some of the hard seed and seedlings emerge on opening autumn rain. Not all hard-seeded species and varieties are suitable for summer sowing. Ensure an appropriate, robust inoculant delivery system capable of surviving high summer temperatures is used to facilitate nodulation.
- Twin sowing is a method where a crop and pasture are sown in a one-pass operation. Unscarified seed or in-pod seed is sown with the final crop. The sowing year is simply a seed softening year for the legume seed and therefore the crop can be sown at the normal rate. The legume will emerge in the following autumn. Hard-seeded French serradella and bladder clover are suitable for use in summer sowing.
- Sow with a cereal crop for establishment the following year. This technique is called cover cropping and involves using a reduced rate of cereal seed. This offsets the cost of pasture establishment by using a single operation and having a crop to harvest at the end of the first year.
- Sow into an existing grass-based pasture. For any legume, either traditional or new hard-seeded species, it can be difficult to achieve adequate establishment in existing pastures due to competition from established pasture species.