Soil quality effects on regeneration of annual Medicago pastures in the Swartland of South Africa
Annual medic (Medicago spp.) pastures are widely used as the forage component of crop rotation systems in the Mediterranean region of South Africa. Reliable establishment of medics can be challenging. This may be related to poor soil quality, an inherent problem of soils in the region often aggravated by poor management. The aim of this study was to determine the underlying soil quality factors that result in classifying soils as having low, medium and high medic pasture production potential. The study was carried out on two farms that have followed crop/pasture rotation systems for the past 20 years. Two growing seasons (2015 and 2016) were evaluated on areas within fields that were identified to have poor, medium and high production potential. Soil samples were taken to evaluate soil quality and to determine the medic seed density in soil. Above-ground seed production and herbage production were monitored during the growing season. The low productivity soils had the lowest below- and above-ground seed density, medic seedlings establishment and medic herbage yield. Soil sodicity was one of the main factors decreasing pasture productivity. In a production system where medics need to regenerate effectively following good seed production, soil sodicity may be especially detrimental.
Keywords: annual medics, Medicago polymorpha, Medicago trancatula, sodic soil, sodium