Sistema Azud, S.A.
Sistema Azud, S.A.

Irrigation solutions for alfalfa crops - Agriculture - Crop Cultivation

Alfalfa is a crop of the legume family and its scientific name is Medicago sativa. Alfalfa is a perennial plant of erect growth and is one of the most extended forage crops within temperate climate countries.

Intensive livestock farming, due to its continuing high food demand, has generated a need to industrially cultivate this crop, promoting a further development of the alfalfa as a food supply for the feed industry. In addition, alfalfa is also used with other purposes such as landscape gardening and as a wildlife conservation crop. The major alfalfa importers are Japan, United Arab Emirates, China and Korea.

Thanks to its wide experience, AZUD offers farmers the most efficient agronomic solution, in order to guarantee a higher productivity in alfalfa crops, taking into account the needs and resources available in each case.

Alfalfa is a great plasticity specie that flourish in a wide range of different climates, from dry to wet zones. Solar irradiation is a key factor that positively influence alfalfa crops. Alfalfa may adapt as well to a wide range of temperature, some varieties resist temperatures up to 10 ºC below zero. Starting in the 10 ºC, crops begin to grow, being 15-28 ºC the most favourable range for most varieties.

This type of crops requires deep and aerated soils. Although it is cultivated in a large variety of soils, this crop is sensitive to water logging. Due to all this concerns, soils under 60 centimetres depth are unwise for alfalfa crops. The ideal soil conditions include high humidity retention, well drained material and being free of compact layers.

The edaphic limiting factor in alfalfa crops is soil acidity. Alfalfa performs better with a pH value higher than 6.5 pH. It is a demanding crop in calcium, sulphur and phosphorous. This legume does not develop properly on saline or alkaline soils which have higher than 8mmhos/cm electrical conductivity. This reduce the production up to the 65 per cent.

A weed-free seeding bed is needed, as well as appropriate humidity conditions, a thin mulch layer and firm soil.

Alfalfa germinates between 5 and 35 ºC, although the ideal temperature is around 25 ºC. The election of the seed is crucial too, it has to be high quality both, physically and genetically.

Germination rate of alfalfa crops is around 60 per cent, due to this fact the seeding density usually is around 16 to 25 Kg/Ha in perforated seeding and from 25 to 30 Kg/Ha in diffusion seeding. Depending on the variety employed the distance between crop rows may vary from 15 to 20 cm.

The amount of water applied depends on the soil water retention capacity, irrigation system efficiency and root depth.

Alfalfa requires fractionated water administration due to the variability of its needs during the production cycle. If the water input is above crop needs, the available water efficiency decrease. Alfalfa is morphologically and physiologically adapted to resist large periods of water shortage as a direct consequence of its roots depth. Alfalfa water needs during the whole cycle are between 700-900 mm.

Average estimated return may be between 12-15 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year. Production may vary depending on the crop area, seed type and methods employed, fluctuating between 7 to 20 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year.