A NSW Government website

Irrigated lucerne


Climate change offers opportunities and challenges to irrigated lucerne growing in NSW, with some regions expected to decrease in climate suitability by 2050.

Lucerne growing in NSW is concentrated in the south and south-east of the state, and extends northwards, west of the Great Dividing RangeLucerne in NSW

Lucerne is a legume introduced into Australia over 200 years ago as a dryland forage crop for grazing. Since the 1970s, more than 50 lucerne varieties have been bred for Australian conditions. Lucerne is now produced for seed, hay, silage and pasture and exported as pellets.

The main production areas for irrigated lucerne in NSW include the river flats of the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan, Macquarie, Hunter and Peel Rivers. The map shows major NSW silage growing regions, including the lucerne. Darker colours represent larger areas of silage grown.

Two stages of irrigated lucerne production were assessed in this project, establishment and harvest. A winter active lucerne, similar to SARDI7, with a yield of 15 to 25 t of hay/ha has been modelled in this assessment.


What is the NSW DPIRD Climate Vulnerability Assessment? ⏷

Climate change is altering the growing conditions for many agricultural commodities across NSW. Primary producers need evidence-based information about the changing climate, and the risks and opportunities it may bring.

The NSW DPIRD Climate Vulnerability Assessments are enhancing the resilience of our primary industries by providing information and data to help the sector better plan for, and respond to, climate change. They have assessed climate change impacts for extensive livestock, broadacre and irrigated cropping, marine fisheries, forestry, horticulture and viticulture, and important biosecurity risks associated with these industries to inform sound planning, risk management and adaptation decisions.

Learn more about the Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

How we assessed climate suitability ⏷

Climate projections were sourced from Climate Change in Australia’s ‘Application Ready Data’. This dataset is comprised of projections from an ensemble of 8 global climate models, each presenting a plausible future climate. The models differ in their projections, giving rise to uncertainty which is reflected in the confidence statements given in brackets. Care should be taken when interpreting these results.

The Climate Vulnerability Assessment is intended to highlight potential industry- or regional-level changes. Intermediate and high emissions scenarios were used in the assessments (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), but these are not the only future scenarios possible. The inclusion of climate variables important to the commodities production was based on published research, expert knowledge and data quality and availability.

Learn more in the Climate Vulnerability Assessment Project Framework.



Climate impacts: what to expect

NSW irrigated lucerne growing regions are likely to experience a minimal decrease from high to moderate in climate suitability by 2050 under both emissions scenarios.

Irrigated lucerne vulnerabilities

  • The irrigation water requirements of lucerne are likely to increase, especially under a high emissions scenario (moderate to high confidence).
  • An increase in the number of hot days, with maximum temperatures exceeding 30°C, is likely to decrease climate suitability across the east of the state (high confidence) and possibly lead to crop damage.

Irrigated lucerne opportunities

  • There is likely to be a minimal to moderate increase in climate suitability due to less frost days across the east of the state (high confidence). This could reduce the amount of cold damage to lucerne.

Adapting to the changing climate

Adapting to changing irrigation water requirements

  • The irrigated lucerne industry may need to be more efficient with water storage and water use by changing irrigation practices or adopting new technologies. Expanding growing regions to parts of NSW with lower irrigation water requirements, such as the eastern upland regions, could be helpful.

Adapting to increased prevalence of hot days

  • Planting strategies that avoid hot days, or the development of varieties of lucerne that are resistant to heat damage, may help adapt to future climates.

Where can I find the climate suitability maps?

Maps of historical and future climate suitability for commodities were produced to demonstrate where in the state a commodity is likely to thrive or else be limited by future climatic conditions. The maps are not provided on these webpages but can be found in the Climate Vulnerability Assessment Summary Report (PDF, 41425.92 KB).

Irrigated lucerne Factsheet

(PDF, 6338.46 KB)

Summary Report

(PDF, 41425.92 KB)


Related Climate Vulnerability Assessments



Contact us

For more information please email: vulnerability.assessment@dpi.nsw.gov.au