Medicago sativa (Alfalfa, Lucerne, MEDSV) | BCH-ORGA-SCBD-12100 | Organism | Biosafety Clearing-House


Organism (ORGA)

published: 05 Apr 2006 last updated: 10 Jun 2014
Organism information
Medicago sativa
Kingdom Plantae
Phylum Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Fabales
Family Fabaceae
Genus Medicago
Species Medicago sativa
  • Alfalfa
  • Lucerne
Characteristics related to biosafety
Medicago sativa is a cultigen species derived mainly from M. coerulea which is indigenous to southwestern Iran, the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia.

Domestication appears to have started in the Bronze Age probably somewhere between 1000 and 2000 BC in the Near East. The initial cultivation of Lucerne is thought to have been stimulated by the need to feed horses. Horses started being domesticated in Central Asia at about 2500 BC and were brought into the Near East by invaders from Central Asia. By 400 BC, Lucern was being grown in Europe.
The US is the largest alfalfa producer in the world, but considerable production is found in Canada, Argentina (primarily grazed), Southern Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Middle East.
  • Feed
  • Food
Additional Information
Lucerne is the most important of the world's forage crops and was domesticated for feeding animals rather than for direct human consumption. There are a wide variety of Medicago sativa cultivars some of which are the product of hybridisation with other wild Medicago species in Europe and Asia. Different cultivars do better in different climatic extremes.

Seed production by Lucerne can be detrimentally affected by poor pollination, often because honeybees (Apis mellifera) learn to avoid triggering the anthers and releasing pollen when extracting nectar. Solitary bees such as bumblebees (Bombus) are the best pollinators.
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Record type Field Record(s)
Living Modified Organism Recipient Organism” or “Parental Organisms 5
Genetic element Donor organism(s) 1