“Lucerne as an alternative crop to maize”

Mohammad, of CEH, talks about the lucerne crop as an alternative to maize in the future: its benefits for the Frome catchment, in the changing climate.

Mohammad: The one from the scenarios when I found that maize is a key crop for the catchment so I was trying to look at what could be alternative options, considering the high emissions scenarios and the mid emissions scenarios, the decrease in rainfall and the decrease in the pressure, what could be the possible rotation. So, because maize is not that drought tolerant, because it doesn’t have deep roots but also has big leave area, higher the water losses so taking more water, losing more water and need more water, especially when you have lower rainfall, higher temperature. So, alternative options, I found that lucerne is deep rooted, is drought tolerant and smaller lead area, less of the water losses. So, as result, what could the effect be? We don’t need any irrigation so it would be grown, as rain fell. I was talking to someone recently and talk, why don’t you use lucerne? They say, yes, it’s ideal because the person was from nutrition department. He said that lucerne is more nutrient that maize so they could be used as what you call? Slurry? They make it for the Scots slurry, they make it. So it could be used because it’s more nutrient and it’s drought tolerant and it don’t lose much water. So the benefit would be you would have less soil moisture deficit, you would have more growth recharge, especially if it’s the start of the spring season and goes through to the summer months, in the UK. And it will also help with stream flow because about 10 percent of the catchment is maize, will need a lot of water abstraction and these things. In the future, when they have tougher regulations, like abstraction schemes, so that would be one of the adaptations, rather than having maize regulations, you could end up using alternative crop, growing the previous crop which is more drought tolerant, using less water and don’t need irrigation.


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