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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Use of Annual Medics in Sustainable Agriculture Systems

Author
item Bauchan, Gary

Submitted to: Eucarpia Medicago Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 20, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Recent interest in cropping systems with a sustainable agriculture approach has placed renewed interest on legumes. Annual medics, Medicago species closely related to perennial alfalfa, grow rapidly, produce large amounts of biomass with many pods, supply nitrogen through nitrogen fixing bacteria, are adapted to a wide range of soil types, and have hard seeds that remain viable in the soil. In the U.S. several species of annual medics have become naturalized and some occasionally are cultivated. The agronomic potential of the medics has been investigated and several different systems have been developed. 1) The medics can be used as permanent pasture. 2) Medics can be used as a green manure crop or cover crop to prevent soil erosion. 3) Annual medics can be used as a companion crop to control weeds, add organic matter, lower soil temperatures and provide fall residue after harvest. 4) Vineyards and fruit orchards have used annual medics in the alleyways to provide ground cover for soil erosion, an environment for beneficial insects, and a stable track for equipment. 5) Use of annual medics as wildlife habitat have been initiated. Medics do have potential uses in sustainable agriculture systems, however, additional research is needed to discover their niche.

Technical Abstract: Recent interest in cropping systems with a sustainable agriculture approach has placed renewed interest on legumes. Annual medics, Medicago species closely related to perennial alfalfa, grow rapidly, produce large amounts of biomass with many pods, supply nitrogen through nitrogen fixing bacteria, are adapted to a wide range of soil types, and have hard seeds that remain viable in the soil. In the U.S. several species of annual medics have become naturalized and some occasionally are cultivated. The agronomic potential of the medics has been investigated and several different systems have been developed.1) The medics can be used as permanent pasture. 2) Medics can be used as a green manure crop or cover crop to prevent soil erosion.3) Annual medics can be used as a companion crop to control weeds, add organic matter, lower soil temperatures and provide fall residue after harvest.4) Vineyards and fruit orchards have used annual medics in the alleyways to provide ground cover for soil erosion, an environment for beneficial insects, and a stable track for equipment. 5) Use of annual medics as wildlife habitat have been initiated. Medics do have potential uses in sustainable agriculture systems, however, additional research is needed to discover their niche.

Last Modified: 9/20/2014
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