Description. Purple alfalfa, as well as blue alfalfa, is a plant of the genus of annual and perennial grasses or semi-shrubs of the Legumes (Fabaceae) family, contains 103 species. The plant has several folk names: blue medic, red hemp nettle, red sweet clover, sweet clover, black medic, dawn, steppe coronilla, meadow coronilla, steppe coronilla, snorer, ionja, sanicle grass.
Its wild species grow in the Balkans and in Asia Minor. In cultivation, the plant is found almost all over the world. Most often, alfalfa is found in river valleys and on dry meadows and, in the steppe and on the edge of the forest, on grassy pastures and hillsides. Alfalfa is also distributed in warm places of Europe with temperate climate, North Africa, Australia and Central Asia.
The stems of the plant are tetrahedral, strongly branching in the upper part, 80 cm in height; there are straight, broadly bushy or lying ones. The root system is extensive, thick, deep, can reach a depth of 10 meters. The leaves are located on petioles, 1-2 cm in length and 0.3-1 cm in width, oblong-obovate, entire. Peduncles are axillary. Flowers are blue-violet. Fruit is a spirally twisted bean, with seeds in the form of kidneys.
Alfalfa is an unpretentious plant. Due to the structure of its rhizome, it tolerates soil drought well.
Alfalfa is cold-resistant, its seeds germinate at 3-5°C. Favorable temperature for plant growth and development is up to 30 ° С.
It is a crop of a long day, very light-demanding, therefore, when it is sowed under the cover of powerfully developed cereal crops it becomes thin.
Good precursors for alfalfa can be such crops as: spring, winter, grain, fodder, nonlegurninous, arable crops (maize for silage, sugar beet).
The plant grows well on highly fertile, medium loamy soils, drained, on sandy with application of fertilizers; does not tolerate \waterlogged, heavy clayey, stony, acidic soils. It will not be superfluous to introduce mineral and organic fertilizers, to introduce phosphorus, nitrogen in small doses.
Alfalfa is cultivated in the suburban area either. Before sowing the grass, it is necessary to clear the territory of weeds and loosen the soil. Seeds can be sown in separate rows or combined with sowing of other cereals or legumes.
The plant is often grown for hay as an additional feeding for animals. For medicinal purposes or gastronomic needs it is grown even without soil, letting the nutritious sprouts of alfalfa germinate. The sprout are germinated from grass seeds, according to the taste they are comparable to green peas. To germinate alfalfa at home it is not difficult – it is necessary to dunk one sachet of seeds in a jar with cold water, in the morning the seeds are washed once more and transferred to another jar.
Application. Purple alfalfa is the most valuable forage crop, it is used for grazing, green forage, grass meal, hay, silage and haylage. In addition to its use in agriculture, it is used in phytotherapy, folk medicine and in the manufacturing of dietary supplements.
According to feed quality, alfalfa takes the first place among all legumes, 1 kg of hay contains 0.5-0.6 feed units or 128 g of digestible protein.
An extensive root system contributes to the improvement of soil structure, the accumulation of humus; due to nodule bacteria, it contributes to the accumulation of atmospheric nitrogen in the roots, which then passes into the soil. Rhizomes of alfalfa can improve the water and air regime of soils. Some types of plants are used for decoration of borders, mixborders, lawns and rock gardens.
Some varieties of alfalfa are used in folk medicine. The green mass of the plant contains A, K, B6, E; D vitamins, calcium and phosphorus.