If you are constantly looking for a way to reduce costs and increase the quality of your crops, then legumes could be your solution. Legumes in your cropping program can assist to increase crop yields as well as reducing Nitrogen fertiliser costs.
It is estimated that lucerne can fix up to 200kg/ha of Nitrogen, clover can supply 100 to 200kg, soybeans and cowpeas 100kg and peanuts 50kg/ha of Nitrogen each year. Nitrogen fixation can vary depending on the overall health of your soil and crop, weather conditions, and the age of your crop. Seed inoculation is important to maximise legume nodulation. When legumes flower and start to set a seed pod, the Nitrogen level in the nodules is reduced.
Deep roots have many benefits
Most legumes have deep root systems and can assist to break through compaction or tillage pans, helping to aerate your soil and allowing water to penetrate deeper into the soil profile. Plants with deep roots have the ability to tap into moisture deep down, enabling crops to hold on longer in dry weather. As well as being able to access minerals deep in the soil profile, plants with deep root systems can assist to recycle applied fertiliser that may have leached below the root level of many grasses, grain, cane and tree crops, etc.
Because most legumes have a higher protein level than grasses, legume-based pastures provide better quality feed for your stock and can allow you to turn off stock earlier. Quality fodder can also reduce the need for protein supplements during winter.
The importance of crop rotation
While your main income may be from one crop type, ie tree crops, cotton, sugar cane, grain, pasture, vegetables or even lucerne, there are several good reasons to avoid mono-cropping. Mono-cropping can increase the occurrence of crop disease and can also lead to imbalanced nutrient levels in your soil. For instance, lucerne is a big consumer of Potassium, and if grown as a mono-crop for long periods, excess levels of Nitrogen can be produced. This high Nitrogen level can tie up Molybdenum, Copper, Potassium and Boron, leading to further soil nutrient imbalance. Because plant diversity is beneficial for soil life, crop rotation including a legume in the program is essential for healthy soil and crops.
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