The persistence and productivity of a diverse range of Medicago sativa germplasm including representatives of subspecies sativa, caerulea, falcata and varia were examined at 3 field sites in south-eastern Australia over 4 years. Sites were located at Tamworth, Barmedman and Hamilton, forming a 1200 km north'south transect with rainfall distribution varying from predominantly summer dominant in the north to winter dominant at the most southerly site. Several entries of subspecies varia and caerulea had herbage yields and persistence equivalent to that of M. sativa subspecies sativa cultivar Sceptre, a highly winter-active type that was used as a standard. The cultivar Cancreep, a cross of M. falcata and M. sativa, had a total yield over 3 years equivalent to 84'91% of Sceptre at the 2 sites where it was sown. Individual lines of subspecies varia demonstrated good persistence under grazing and were ranked 2nd and 6th out of 35 accessions for frequency in year 4 at Barmedman, the driest site, and 5th, 7th and 9th out of 33 accessions at Tamworth, the more summer-dominant rainfall site. Entries of subspecies falcata were among the least productive and persistent. The study indicated that germplasm from subspecies caerulea and varia offered hitherto unexploited potential for selection as persistent and drought-tolerant perennial legume alternatives to M. sativa for extensive low management grazing systems of south-eastern Australia.