Lucerne is a perennial with a woody crown and an erect growth habit. It is suited to fertile, deep, well drained, neutral to alkaline soils. Its long tap root can access moisture deep in the soil profile, providing extraordinary summer growth and drought tolerance. Careful management, including grazing control and weed and pest control, is usually required for a stand of lucerne to persist.

Lucerne is mostly used as a perennial hay or fodder crop. It provides high quality forage that is readily saleable as hay or useable as a high protein addition to livestock diets. Because of the high value of the lucerne forage and its excellent summer production, lucerne is very suited to irrigation. Lucerne may be grown as part of a mixed pasture sward but the conditions must suit lucerne. Rotational grazing is usually necessary to ensure survival. Grass species are sometimes planted with winter dormant lucerne cultivars to reduce the invasion of weeds in late autumn and winter, when the lucerne plants are dormant.