LUCERNE establishment strategies and the crop's survival in the first year are being tested in an intercrop trial with barley at the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) Meckering trial site.
Poor establishment records in the past have inhibited adoption of the perennial pasture in WA's dryland cropping systems.
The trial, conducted by Agriculture Department research officer Sharon Dawson, Katanning, in partnership with Pioneer Hi-Bred and the Western Australian Lucerne Growers, is a study of lucerne establishment in a pure stand of lucerne sown with 40kg/ha of barley and 80kg/ha barley.
Plant counts to date indicate lucerne emergence has not been affected by barley sowing rate.
However, Ms Dawson said they expected to find less lucerne plants at harvest in the trial with lucerne sown with 80kg/ha barley than the mix of lucerne and 40kg/ha barley.
Establishment success is also being tested in pure lucerne stands at 20, 40 and 80cm spacing.
"The 100pc lucerne plots obviously have the highest plant density (40plants/m2)," Ms Dawson said.
However, lucerne plant density dropped to 20 plants/m2 where lucerne was sown at 80cm spacing.
In all plots lucerne was sown at 3kg/ha and the barley variety was Stirling.
There are also five lucerne variety demonstration plots of PL 55, which has a winter activity rating (WAR) of five, Genesis (WAR 7), PL69 (WAR 8), Sceptre (WAR 9), Salado (WAR 9.5).
WAR starts at one (highly winter dormant) to 10 (highly winter active), which indicated a lucerne variety's ability to grow in cold tempertatures and less sunlight.
Ms Dawson said all varieties were productive during summer when water was available.
"Winter active does not mean summer dormant," she said.
"All lucerne varieties are active with water; winter activity refers to their growth and maturity under low temperature and short day length.
"Varieties rated seven or more are favoured in our Mediterranean climate to best utilise the winter dominant rainfall pattern."
WA Lucerne Growers Assistance Packages, which gave on-farm site-specific advice on lucerne establishment and management, are available through Ms Dawson.