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The potential of Medicago murex as a new legume species for the eastern wheat belt

B.S. Dear and L. Jenkins

Department of Agriculture, New South Wales, Agricultural Research Institute, Wagga Wagga, 2650

Annual legumes are sown extensively in eastern Australia to improve soil N levels and the quality and quantity of feed for livestock. While subterranean clover is the dominant legume grown in the 450 mm + rainfall zone of the eastern wheat belt, existing cultivars have two major limitations. Midseason to late maturing cultivars have relatively low levels of hardseed which can result in large fluctuations in seedling populations, depending on the amount of summer rainfall and the frequency of false breaks prior to the season. Another problem is that after spring, herbage avail- ability and quality declines markedly due to rapid senescence and decay of the legume.

Medicago murex, (murex) a new legume species being developed in Western Australia, has potential to overcome reduce these limitations. This species has a similar maturity to midseason subclover cultivars but is reported to have significantly higher levels of hardseed. Like some other medics, its growth habit is less determinate, with the ability to stay greener longer into summer when conditions permit. This paper reports an experiment in which a number of murex lines were compared with subterranean clover and barrel medic.


Five lines of murex and three cultivars each of subterranean clover and barrel medic were sown into a red-brown earth (pH 4.8 CaC12) at Temora (av rainfall 520 mm p.a.) in May 1985. Plot sizes were 2mx4mwith three replications. The plots have been rotationally grazed by sheep.

Results and Discussion

Spring dry matter yields of murex were similar to the other legumes. The murex lines varied in flowering time by about 11 days with the later lines having a maturity similar to Woogenellup. A summary of the results is presented in the table below.

Seed set by all the murex lines was good with most exceeding 1000 kg/ha. Although the murex set a high proportion of hardseed, regeneration was sufficient to produce a dense sward in the following year. Subsequent herbage production in 1986 and regeneration in 1987 has confirmed that murex is well suited to the red brown earth soils of the eastern wheat belt.

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