Lucerne and other perennial legumes provide new options for rain fed livestock production in the Mediterranean-climate region of Chile

Ovalle, Carlos.; Espinoza, Soledad; Barahona, Viviana; Gerding, Macarena; Humphries, Alan; del Pozo, Alejandro

Keywords: mediterranean pastures, perennial legumes, Dryland lucerne


In dryland Mediterranean environments, the productivity of annual legumes is low during autumn and winter, with plant senescence typically beginning by the middle of spring because of low soil water availability. Therefore, the use of deep-rooted perennial legumes may provide an alternative to annual legumes in regions with a soil moisture déficit. We evaluated the germplasm of new perennial legumes with deep rooting systems in two field experiments in the interior drylands of central Chile. In experiment 1, sixteen genotypes of four perennial legume species, nine cultivars (cvs.) of Medicago sativa, two of Hedysarum coronarium, three of Lotus tenuis, and two of Lotus corniculatus were evaluated for three seasons (2012-2014). In experiment 2, eight additional genotypes from two perennial legume species (M. sativa and H. coronarium) were evaluated between 2013 and 2015. Additionally, sixteen cultivars and accessions of M. sativa were evaluated in raised beds, with nine from Australia, two from Spain, two from California and three of Andean origin. We evaluated plant survival, nodulation, plant height at the end of the winter period and temporal distribution of biomass production. The persistence of M. sativa cultivars was high (over 80% survival after three years), but only the lucerne produced high yields (8-11 Mg ha-1 in the third season). Significant differences for winter production were detected among the lucerne cultivars, associated with their winter activity class, but no differences were found in total biomass production. The persistence of L. tenuis, L. corniculatus and H. coronarium was poor, and the biomass production was low, most likely because rhizobia failed to persist. Based on these preliminary results on perennial legumes, lucerne has great potential as a forage crop in the interior drylands of central Chile. However, more research on rhizobial strains, nodulation, plant growth and biomass accumulation, and root distribution and water use, among other factors, is required to better understand the persistence of perennial legumes in rain fed environments.

Más información

Volumen: 42
Número: 3
Editorial: Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Fecha de publicación: 2015
Página de inicio: 461
Página final: 464
Idioma: English