MEDIC PASTURE

Measuring dry medic pods

and

medic seedlings

and

harvest loss in cereal crops

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CHAPTER HEADING

SUMMARY OF CONTENTS

The first stage in convincing farmers to adopted medic pasture is to produce a simple budget. This shows the changes in costs and returns when medic is grown and the increase in profit. Some sample budget forms are provided.
If the extremes of over-grazing and under-grazing can be avoided the medic pasture has a much greater chance of success. Some simple planning to provide a rough balance between the area of proposed medic pasture and the number of sheep will make grazing management much more straightforward.
The traditional method of medic pasture establishment in the WANA region over the last 25 years and in Australia for 80 years has been to sow medic seed into a well prepared seedbed. Medic seed can be costly and seedbed preparation and sowing is difficult for small farmers who lack the proper equipment.
Establishing medic pasture using pods is an innovation that offers many potential benefits particularly for small farmers. The method was first developed by ICARDA in Syria in the 1990's and now forms the basis of the Zaghouan rotation in Tunisia. It potential in the WANA region is considerable.
The parcour or rough grazing land occupies more than half of the cereal zone in the WANA region. Pasture establishment using seed has been difficult but pods may be a better option.
Grazing the green medic pasture is vital in make a profit, to control weeds and produce ample supplies of pods for future years. Farmers in the WANA region have developed innovations that take their grazing management to higher levels of efficiency than those achieved in Australia.
Pods provide a valuable feed supply in summer for sheep and are needed for the regeneration of the pasture in future years. Farmers must find a balance.

YOU ARE HERE

Measuring the pods is an important part of grazing management. We have made a separate topic so it can be printed and used as an extension guide for farmers.
The medic pasture has completed its first year. The pasture regenerates with the autumn rains. Farmers must decide whether to cultivate the land for cereals (the classic medic - cereal rotation) or leave it for another year or more. The options are discussed.
Making hay from medic is not as simple as it may seem. This chapter discusses the options and innovative rotations for medic hay production.
Turning the medic pasture into profits is the objective. This chapter shows how live-weights are increased, death rates reduced and lambing percentages increased. The new flock structure is more efficient and produces greater returns.
A check list of possible failures and what to do about them.
  
 

FOUR COMMON ROTATION ON THE GROUND IN THE WANA REGION

SEASON

ROTATIONS

CEREAL - FALLOW

CEREAL - MEDIC
( Traditional rotation)

CEREAL - VETCH

CEREAL - GRAIN
LEGUME.

AUTUMN

Cereal crop sown

Cereal crop sown

Cereal crop sown

Cereal crop sown

WINTER

Cereal crop grows

Cereal crop grows

Cereal crop grows

Cereal crop grows

SPRING

Cereal crop matures

Cereal crop matures

Cereal crop matures

Cereal crop matures

SUMMER

Cereal crop harvested
Stubble grazed by livestock

Cereal crop harvested
Stubble grazed by livestock

Cereal crop harvested
Stubble grazed by livestock

Cereal crop harvested
Stubble grazed by livestock

AUTUMN

Weeds germinate naturally

Medic regenerates from seed
produced 18 months earlier.
No cultivation of the land required.

Land cultivated and sown to vetch or similar forage legumes.

Land cultivated and sown to grain legume such as lentils or
chick peas.

WINTER

Weeds grazed. Low stocking rate.

Medic pasture grazed. High stocking rate.

Grazed or more often left for hay.

Grain legumes grow.

SPRING

Land cultivated for fallow

Medic grazed. Pods produced for future regeneration.

Cut for hay.

Grain legumes mature.

SUMMER

Bare soil vulnerable to erosion.

Pods and stubble grazed.

Stubble grazed.

Grain legumes harvested.

Stubble grazed.

AUTUMN

Cereal cycle begins again.

Cereal cycle begins again

Cereal cycle begins again

Cereal cycle begins again

Stage 1

     Take a piece of cardboard at least 20 cm X 20 cm.

        Draw a circle 11 cm in diameter.

        With a knife cut out the centre of the circle.

        You now have your sample disc.
 

DIAGRAM 1


 
 

The  area within the 11 cm cut out represents 1/100 of a square metre.

That is multiply by 100 to obtain a figure per sq. m.

For example if there are 5 medic pods within the sample area this represents 500 pods per sq. m.

If there are 5 medic seedlings = 500 seedlings per square m.

If there are 2 grains of wheat = 200 grains per sq. m.


Stage 2

               Take the sample disc and throw it at random in the field to be measured.

                    This should be done 10 times.

                    Collect the medic pods within the sample area as shown below.
 

DIAGRAM 2


 
 

A collection of medic pods - mostly local ecotypes.

Stage 3

                The pods are opened to remove the seeds.

                The seeds are counted.

         The seed count is converted to seeds per sq. m.

 
 

 

                The above photo shows a single medic pod much enlarged.
 

                These are the medic seeds extracted from the pods.
 

The sample disc in action.

 

An extension agent in Tunisia explains the measurement of dry medic pods to a group of medic farmers. Note the measuring disc and hat.

    * Early summer.
 

     The above Diagram 2 represents a medic pasture in early summer.

    There are 24 medic pods. They are different shapes and sizes because different medic species have different and characteristic pods shapes.

    The 24 pods were opened.

    The total seed count was 85 seeds

    The 85 seeds were multiplied by 100 = 8500 seeds per sq. m.

    This represents an ample supply of seed.

    Grazing by sheep of the dry medic pods can continue. 

    * Mid summer.

    The medic field is sampled again as shown below.

DIAGRAM 3  



    There are now 8 medic pods in the sample.

    Again the seeds are extracted from the pods.

    The seed count is 26.

    This is converted to 2600 seeds per sq. m.

    You have now reached an approximate level where grazing should stop.  Grazing dry medic  provides a more precise guide to the number of seeds.

Can you avoid opening the pods?

    This is the most time consuming part of the sampling process.

    It can be avoided at the early stages when it is obvious that with only a single seed in each pod there are ample seeds. When medic pods are so abundant there is really no need to sample the pasture.

    Later it must be carried out because:

     * Different species of medic have different numbers of seeds in each pod. As a pasture matures over a number of cycles of regeneration (even if it was sown to one medic originally) there will be a number of medic species. Only by counting the seeds can an estimate be made.

    * Even a single species does not have a fixed number of seeds in each pod. The number of seeds is reduced in a dry season (or small seeds that are not viable). Again one must open the pods to find out.
 

Using the disc for green medic.

    The sample disc is used in the autumn to sample green medic pasture. The purpose is to check on the regeneration cycle as there is little that can be done at this stage if there are not enough medic seedlings.

Using the disc for measuring harvest loss.

    The sample disc is also used to measure harvest loss in cereal crops.