Scientific name: Medicago sativa
Common name: In Arab known as alfalfa
In Europe called as Lucerne
Belongs to Leguminosae family
Origin: Introduced from the Mediterranean region
It is called as
“Queen of forage crops”
“King of fodder crops” is berseem
Digestible and nutritious
Lucerne probably the world’s best fodder
Extremely drought tolerant
Fast growing (can be cut after 30 days of 1st cutting)
Susceptible to a range of pests and diseases
Rabi fodder crop(sown in winter, October to November)
Long softly-hairy/serrated leaves (saw tooth)
Leaves are trifoliate, with obovate leaflets, 10-45
mm long and 3-10 mm broad.
Petiole up to 2 cm long
2-3 ft tall
Multi-branched perennial plant with a very deep tap
Plants develop a woody crown at ground level
Stems rising from the crown to around 1 m height.
Flower blue but can purple or yellow
Flowers are a typical pea shape 12 – 15 mm long
Develop in dense clusters of 20 – 30 flowers at the tips
of the branches
Alfalfa originated from the Mediterranean basin and southwest Asia (Iran,
Afghanistan) and was one of the first forage crops to be domesticated
Due to its variable genetic base, alfalfa has good adaptability to different
Optimal growth conditions are 25°C average day-temperatures and 600 to
1200 mm annual rainfall.
It grows best on deep, well-drained, sandy to fertile loamy soils, with 6.5-
7.5 soil pH.
Deep loamy soils rich in phosphorus, calcium and potash are very good
for Lucerne crop.
It tolerates short spell of drought.
Alfalfa has a deep
root that reaches
down to 4 m, but
can reach 7-9 m
in well drained
Hence this plant
tends to bring up
the minerals from
the soil that is not
at the surface.
Sowing the seeds at proper time, rate and method increases the
1. Time of sowing:
The optimum time of sowing of Lucerne is from 1st week , of
October to middle of November
However, middle of October is the best time for sowing Lucerne.
2. Seed rate:
In case of broadcasting, 20-25 kg per hectare of seed should be
while for line sowing 12-15 kg per hectare is sufficient.
3. Sowing method:
Sowing of Lucerne can be done either by broadcast or by line
Vernal (cultivars) used in past a variety of a plant developed from a natural
species and maintained under cultivation
There are now more than 30 varieties of Lucerne available.
These varieties have a wide range of pest and disease resistances and
Two types are used
1) Dormant (growth reduced in winter due to low temp/shorter days)
2) Non-dormant (grow through the winter, named as Winter active)
M. falcata a wild variety of alfalfa that naturally hybridizes with
M. sativa to produce Sand Lucerne
This species may bear either the purple flowers or yellow
Perennial forage and lasts for many years
In Pakistan, (total production) 3978601 t/144984 h
On average ,in six cuts per year,
First cut after 3 month of
Later cuts after interval of 5-6 weeks.
Top Producing Areas:
The world wide production was around 500+ million tonnes in 2010
Produced in Punjab,Balochistan
US, Canada, Argentina,
Australia, South africa and in Middle east
Upper Midwestern states account for about;
50% production in US
40%in Western states
Effect of cut number & harvesting conditions:15
The high content of structural fiber in alfalfa hay fiber that is
rapidly digested by rumen microbia is particularly valuable in
ruminants because it enhances DM intake.
Alfalfa fiber helps to prevent acidosis due to its intrinsic
buffering effect and to the stimulation of ruminative chewing
and salivation which results in rumen buffering. Alfalfa hay
may be finely chopped, or coarse with long fiber.
Silage is a good conservation method even in harsh
conditions. Since alfalfa has a low carbohydrate content it
has to be supplemented with carbon sources, such as
ground cereal grains like wheat or barley, and inoculated to
Alfalfa silages can be made using fresh alfalfa or pre-wilted
alfalfa. The crop should be at 50-70 % moisture before
ensiling to prevent nutrient leaching
With regards to the nutritional properties and
information of Alfalfa this plant is rich in
such as A, C, B1, B6, E and K
It is also rich in proteins, calcium, carotene, zinc,
iron and potassium.
The sun-dried hay of alfalfa (also known as Lucerne) has been found to be a source of
As a multi-purpose fodder;
As a high quality fodder
Lucerne meal is used for livestock and
As an ornamental
Called the "Queen of forages"
in the USA, alfalfa has an
outstanding protein content
and a well-balanced amino
acids profile for ruminants
that compares favourably
that of soybean. Alfalfa yields
more protein per unit area
Alfalfa provides higher
amounts of minerals (mainly
calcium, but also magnesium,
potassium, sulfur, iron, cobalt,
manganese, and zinc) and
vitamins (beta-carotene) than
Beta-carotene, a precursor of
vitamin A, plays a major role
in animal reproductive
performances and it is also
important for vision, growth
and skin health . The energy
content of alfalfa, though
slightly lower than that of
certain grasses, should not
Precautions/ Side Effects/ Warnings
• Grazed or fresh alfalfa at vegetative or mid-bud stage may cause bloat
sheep and cattle. This problem may be alleviated by restricting access
alfalfa or by feeding sheep and cattle before they come into the sward
• Cases of photosensitization have been reported in cattle and sheep. In
male sheep, it can result in pizzle rot and enterotoxaemia.
• Saponin content in alfalfa forage may have adverse haemolytic effects
on livestock and reduce growth and egg-production in poultry.
However, it also gives the plant resistance to pests
• Alfalfa contains phytoestrogens that are reported to reduce conception rates in
cattle and sheep fed alfalfa prior to mating. The estrogen content varies among
genotypes, but may increase in leaves due to attacks of parasites and fungi that
are often prevalent in the autumn.