Choosing the Right Alfalfa Variety Takes Time and Research

Choosing the Right Alfalfa Variety Takes Time and Research

The choice of alfalfa seeds can be difficult. While some will say the cheapest variety is the way to go, agricultural and seed experts will tell you that this is rarely the case. In fact, variety performance almost always trumps price.

Factors that will impact yield include soil fertility and type, the cutting schedule, and the management system employed. Disease, insect and weed control also need to be considered. If you choose a higher quality variety of alfalfa, make sure to check out yields. If a great deal of yield is lost to high quality, the economics need to ensure that it’s a good tradeoff.

It also is important to keep in mind that the cutting schedule will usually have a greater impact on quality than variety since decreased dormancy are likely to reduce yields. Varieties that rate higher in fall dormancy and have a faster growing period, for example, can improve leaf-to-stem ratios, protein levels and total digestible nutrients.

If you are looking to choose the best variety of alfalfa seeds, it may seem like a daunting task. What follows are some tips that will help that task be more manageable:

  1. Don’t immediately go for the top-rated variety. Instead look for high-yielding certified varieties. These varieties should have a history of success in multi-year trials
  2. Determine fall dormancy requirements and preferences in your geographical area.
  3. Analyze pest resistance ratings in relation to pests in your area. While you may not require high-level resistance each and every year, you don’t want to be without it if a major infestation does occur.
  4. Take into consideration stand persistence and forage quality. If quality is the highest priority, less emphasis should be placed on yield.

It also is important to keep in mind that alfalfa stands will be around for several years and multiple cuttings. While the cost of seeds is a consideration for all types of crops, the price of cash hay means that purchasing the most expensive alfalfa seed variety doesn’t mean a better return on investment.

No matter which alfalfa seed you select, the correct management practices will go a long way toward protecting your investment. These practices include:

  • Scouting your alfalfa fields regularly for depleted biomass, disease and insects
  • Applying a preventative fungicide
  • Using a residual insecticide
  • Performing tissue testing to evaluate plant nutrient levels
  • Selecting varieties with appropriate tolerance that fit your future goals

While choosing alfalfa seeds for your operation isn’t always a simple task, it is a necessary one. Doing your research and choosing the correct management practices is the best way to ensure success.