The utilisation of lucerne (Medicago sativa): a review

20 April 2015

Purpose – The aim of this review is to focus on the potential utilisation of lucerne which could contribute more effectively to human nutrition and food sustainability. It aims to explore a proposed cycle for the promotion of lucerne for human consumption. Furthermore it seeks to propose lucerne as a potential vegetable and to briefly discuss the chemical composition, protein application, safety and medicinal uses of lucerne. Design/methodology/approach – A non-experimental approach, namely a systematic literature study, was used. During the study searches were done on the scientific databases Science Direct, Sabinet online, Emerald, EbscoHost and SpringerLink. Moreover internet searches were undertaken on the search engine, Google Scholar. Additionally, available textbooks and theses were consulted. Different combinations of keywords as well as synonyms for keywords were used during the searches. Some keywords used included lucerne, alfalfa and legumes. Findings – The high costs of animal protein have led to a growing interest in the industrial applications of lucerne in developing countries as lucerne is a valuable source of protein, suitable to produce nutritional food for human consumers. The full development of lucerne’s potential is hindered by a lack of awareness among consumers as well as by a lack of capacity within a research community. Therefore the key steps in the proposed cycle can be used to aid in the diversification of lucerne in the market place. Originality/value – To the author’s knowledge there exists a lack of previous reviews on lucerne. It is important for scientists to become aware of the nutritional and entrepreneurial potential and contribution for human consumption purposes in the future in order for the lucerne industry to diversify.