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Alfalfa Agronomy

Selecting the correct alfalfa variety for your farm

When selecting alfalfa seed varieties for your farm it is very important to place the correct varieties that work on your farm and fit your production goals. The following chart will assist in making those choices with Legacy products.


Alfalfa Diseases

Legacy’s Alfalfa Breeding program focuses on breeding varieties that are highly resistant (HR) to the six major alfalfa diseases and also to Aphanomyces Root Rot Races 2 and 3 and Anthracnose Race 2.  One of the major breakthroughs in the alfalfa industry happened when Legacy Seeds introduced our StandLife Genetics® Aphanomyces Root Rot Race 2 program in 2013. StandLife Genetics® varieties have Multiple Strain Resistance to Aphanomyces Root Rot Race 2 and since 2017 there are now varieties that have Multiple Strain Resistance to Aphanomyces Root Rot Race 3.

“Alfalfa root rot caused by Aphanomyces euteiches is the single most important disease of alfalfa… according to Doug Rouse, UW-Madison plant pathologist. The UW’s plant pathology team has now concluded there’s at least one additional “race” of this damaging pathogen present in Wisconsin alfalfa fields that’s not being taken care of with varieties resistant for races 1 and 2.

Aphanomyces symptoms include stunting and yellowing of alfalfa plants, and in severe cases, reduced stand. Rouse reports yield can be reduced by as much as 50 percent. Because the pathogen is so long-lived in the soil, there aren’t really any effective cropping practices to get rid of it”.  Source

Alfalfa Disease Resistance Index Scores

HR = >51%
R = 31-50%
MR = 15-30%
LR = 6-14%
S = 0-5%

For more information on Alfalfa Diseases and pests that effect alfalfa production, visit https://www.alfalfa.org/pdf/AlfalfaAnalyst.pdf


Legacy Alfalfa Forage Quality
It’s All About More Milk!™

Legacy Breeding for Quality and Yield

The foundation of Legacy’s Alfalfa breeding program is breeding highly digestible (HD®) high yielding varieties with excellent persistence.  Dave Huset, Legacy’s Alfalfa Research Director has been breeding high quality alfalfa for over 30 years.  Dave would appropriately be called the “Father of Highly Digestible Alfalfa”.

The goal behind breeding HD® varieties is to increase milk yield and forage yield while also increasing profitability on the dairy farm and in the forage field.  Research data collected at Legacy Research trials from 2007 to 2017 Legacy HD® alfalfa showed an average of 10% increase in milk per acre production over “dairy quality” varieties marketed by six competitors. Twenty-five different HD® varieties were tested versus competitor’s top varieties.

Alfalfa Forage Quality

Forage Quality Terms

There are many terms of calculations and measurements that the forage industry uses to describe forage quality.  While many forage quality categories measured the Legacy Alfalfa Breeding program especially focuses on improving NDFd and uNDF in the high yielding HD® alfalfa varieties.  The publication linked to below helps producers to more fully understand forage quality.

Learn more about understanding forage quality.


Stand Assessment

How do you know if you have a good stand of alfalfa or not?  Use the following charts to determine if you have achieved a good stand at establishment or if you have an adequate stand so as to not limit productivity.

Stem Density

Stand Density (stems/ft2) Suggested Action
>55 Stem Density is not limiting yield
40-55 Expect diminished yield potential
<40 Consider replacing the stand

Plant Density

Period Plant/ft2
Within 30 days of seeding 25 – 30
Fall of Seeding Year 15 – 25
1st Production Year 10 – 15
2nd Production Year 6 – 10
3rd Production Year 4 – 6

Contact your local Legacy Dealer or Legacy District Sales Manager for a “Legacy Alfalfa Square” that will help you assess your stand.

If you have had winter injury to your stand, please read the following articles: https://fyi.uwex.edu/forage/evaluating-and-managing-alfalfa-stands-for-winter-injury and http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/A3620.pdf


Late-Summer Seeding Alfalfa: A Viable Practice

Read More


Why Forage Seedings Fail

  1. Live seed does not germinate because:
    1. Impermeable seed coat: This can be overcome by scarifying seed.
    2. Not enough air: This occurs because seed were sown too deeply or in wet soils.
    3. Not enough moisture.
  2. Seedlings die immediately after germination because:
    1. Drying: seed placed in loose surface soil may germinate after a light rain, then dry out before developing sufficient roots for establishment.
    2. Freezing: Seed are sensitive to freezing as the young root breaks the seed coat; temperatures below –3 degrees C are lethal. Soil coverage reduces the likelihood of injury, and once rooted, seedlings can withstand much lower temperatures.
    3. Light coverage: Soil cover or mulch protects against both drying and freezing; without it, seed establish only when soil surface remains moist for extended periods.
    4. Heavy coverage: Most wasted seed probably occurs this way.
    5. Crusted soil surface: This can prevent emergence, especially when seed are sown deeply on fine-textured soils.
    6. Toxicity: Seed in direct contact with banded fertilizer, improper use of herbicides, herbicide carryover, and autotoxicity can damage seed and young seedlings.
  3. Seedlings die after establishment because:
    1. Undesirable pH: Lime should be applied according to soil test to provide a desirable pH; calcium and magnesium should be applied as nutrients.
    2. Low fertility: A soil test should be used to ensure adequate phosphorus, potassium, or other nutrients.
    3. Inadequate legume inoculation.
    4. Poor drainage: Water accumulation on the surface or in the soil profile can limit growth.
    5. Drought: This is the reason most commonly given for stand failures.
    6. Seedling vigor: Some forages, including nurse crops, can compete with forage seedlings for water, light and nutrients.
    7. Insects and pests.
    8. Winterkill: Seeding too late in the fall or seeding poorly adapted cultivars can cause winterkill.

SOURCE: Adapted with permission from Vough, L. R., A. M. Decker, and T. H. Taylor. 1995. Forage establishment and renovation. P. 42 in Barnes, Miller and Nelson, eds. Forages, 5th ed. Iowa State University Press, Ames.

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