Lotus - Greater lotus

NOTE: The information in this Agnote must be read in conjunction with Introduction to selecting and using pastures in NSW, which covers information on areas of adaptation, sources of variability, species mixtures, and important issues related to animal health and the conservation of native vegetation.
Pasture type and use

Alternative niche legume species with warm-season growth. For wet acidic soils of low fertility. Cattle and sheep grazing.

Area of adaptation High-rainfall coastal districts (north and south), and moist sites on the Northern Tablelands.
Min. average annual rainfall 1000 mm
  • Of special value for wet and waterlogged conditions and on low-fertility acidic soils.
  • Strong summer-growing perennial — spreads by rhizomes.
  • Dry matter production exceeds that of white clover and red clover under low-fertility conditions.
  • Low bloat risk.
  • Palatable.
  • Incorporating lotus in a pasture mix can help reduce the incidence of bloat.
  • Seed is costly.
  • Can be difficult to establish (establishes slowly).
  • Regrowth after close grazing is slow.
Soil requirements Adapted to most soil types providing soil moisture is favourable. Tolerates low soil pH(Ca) 4.5–5.5, high levels of aluminium and manganese, and waterlogged sites.
Varieties Grasslands Maku. Characterised by large leaf, thick stem, erect perennial habit.
Sowing rates—
in mixtures
Should be broadcast, or planted shallow, at 1–2 kg/ha, although lower rates (0.5) are common because of high seed costs. Establishment may be enhanced by trampling with livestock or rolling.
Sowing time Late summer to early autumn planting is likely to be most successful. It can be planted in spring in locations where spring–summer rainfall is reliable and grass competition can be held in check.
Companion species Coexists successfully with vigorous or invasive companion grasses.
In coastal districts: setaria, paspalum, carpet grass.
In tablelands districts: tall fescue, cocksfoot, phalaris.
Inoculation Specific Lotus uliginosus rhizobium strain (Group D).
Major nutrient deficiencies Severe deficiencies in phosphorus, sulfur and molybdenum need to be corrected. Efficient in utilising soil phosphorus, so will survive on low-phosphorus fertiliser inputs.
Main insect pests Reputedly resistant to predation by insects and soil-living pests.
Main diseases Generally regarded as resistant to Phytophthora and other water mould fungi which are potentially a problem in wet soils. Fusarium root rot has been reported.
A virus-like infection similar to ‘lucerne yellows’ has been reported to be associated with death of lotus plants on the North Coast, but the incidence and significance is unknown.
Management Tolerant of both close grazing and lax grazing. Tactical grazing to maintain adequate sward density is beneficial to tillering from rhizomes and stems to speed up regrowth.
Livestock disorders of particular note Sometimes cyanogenetic glycosides (L. cruentus syn. coccineus).
Milk taint (L. corniculatus and L. major syn. pedunculatus syn. uliginosus).
Occasionally develops tannin levels high enough to reduce feed intake.
Additional tips
  • Where adapted, greater lotus can provide a reliable legume base in the pasture and improve animal production. However, seed is expensive and establishment can be difficult. Caution is advised — initially undertake a small pasture development exercise to gain experience with lotus.
  • Ensure an adequate seeding rate of correctly inoculated seed.
  • Broadcast or sow shallow.
  • Avoid intensive grazing.

NSW Agriculture is currently undertaking statewide research to develop recommended grazing practices for lotus persistence.

Further information Agfact P2.5.30 Lotus for pasture and seed production.


Advice on livestock health disorders was provided by Dr Chris Bourke, Principal Research Scientist, Orange. His contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

Photo: Warren McDonald, Former Technical Specialist (Pastures), NSW Agriculture, Tamworth.