As for other forage crops the notion of variety is quite recent in lucerne (Medicago sativa L.). Up to 1950 in France, farmers cultivated landraces whose origins were geographically defined. Seed production was a by-product of forage production. Usually, seeds were harvested on the second or third crop, in old lucerne fields. Natural selection created landraces adapted to local conditions. In some years, climatic conditions, especially in northern regions, were unfavourable to seed production. In the exchanges and trades of seeds between French regions, the genetic origin of the seeds was omitted, the geographical origin was only mentioned. Even if France usually exported lucerne seeds, imports occurred in bad years. Seeds were imported from European countries and from North and South America. Varieties from America were poorly adapted to the French conditions for forage production. These foreign varieties have probably intercrossed with the local landraces but no data is available to know to what extent. Among the various French landraces, five main types were defined using morphological characters: ‘Flamande’ in the north, three types (‘Poitou’, ‘Marais de Luçon’, ‘Marais de Challans’) in the west, and ‘Provence’ in the south. These landraces have been widely used in breeding since 1950. Even though these five landraces are, up to now, maintained, the other landraces have probably been lost (no more cultivated and not in genebanks), replaced by registered varieties.
Medicago sativalucerne landrace seed production genetic erosion