What’s the background on using black medic as a legume cover crop, and where can I get seed?
I.S. OklahomaAnswer: The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program has compiled extensive information on black medic for their on-line Cover Crop database. See Resources, below. Black medic (Medicago lupulina L.) is a non-native plant that has become naturalized in some western states in the U.S. In 1987, four Montana farmers formed Timeless Seeds, a company set up specifically to develop from several wild strains and market an improved black medic (?George’), in addition to other soil-building crops, as an alternative to cultivated fallow. Research was conducted in collaboration with Jim Sims, former Montana State University agronomist. Oklahoma State University (OSU) has investigated a number of the annual Medicago spp.?including black medic?as cool-season annual forages and concluded they can make a “small, but significant contribution to forage production programs.” OSU Extension notes that commercial seed for annual medic species is ?difficult to find, and the plant is seldom intentionally sown. The seed may lie dormant in the soil for many years; but, when the medics do appear, they produce excellent forage for grazing and may produce an abundant seed crop. Besides Timeless Seeds, Valley Seed Service, Fresno, CA, is a “weed seed supplier for research purposes.” (See Resources, below.) Most of the World Wide Web articles that turned up in a search using the term “black medic” seed were about weed eradication from lawns and golf courses. Once sown, seed of this species can remain dormant for years, but when plants become established, they produce abundant seed. Since some of the research has been done in Oklahoma, it might be wise to consult with your state forage Extension specialist regarding your specific needs. Black medic is in the same genus as alfalfa (Medicagosativa L.). When plans were announced to develop a GMO alfalfa there were immediate concerns about spread of GMO material to established wild populations of black medic and related leguminous species. More recently, concerns have been expressed because black medic is one of the hosts of soybean rust. ResourcesCountry Pride staff. 2004. Asian Soybean Rust Detected in U.S. Country Pride Services Co-op Newsletter. Fall. p. 1.www.countryprideservices.com/Agronomy%20Updates/Soybean%20Rust.htmStaff. [n.d.] Black medic. UC SAREP Online Cover Crop Database. www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/cgi-bin/ccrop.EXE/show_crop_8Timeless Seeds & Specialty Food Productswww.timeless-seeds.comValley Seed Servicewww.valleyseedservice.com