ALFALFAH AND OATS GROWING.
Alfalfa called The Queen of the Forages" is one of the most widely grown crops in the US and is also one of the most important forage crops in the world. It has a high forage yield potential and can produce these high yields without nitrogen fertilization. Moreover Alfalfa is high in digestible energy and protein which makes it an extremely valuable feed.
Alfalfa has been grown as a forage crop since the beginning of recorded history and can now be found almost anywhere in the world. It is believed that Alfalfa originated in the vicinity of Iran and was first brought to North America by the European colonists in the early 1700s. The first real success with Alfalfa production in the US came when it was brought into the Southwest by way of Mexico. It is now grown to some extent in every state. Over 350000 acres are grown in Kentucky while up to 2 million acres of land are suitable forAlfalfa production.
Alfalfa has spread and become popular because of its productivity and high feed value. It has the highest yield potential of any perennial forage legume adapted to the US. It is also among the highest in feed value with its high protein content it complements corn silage and grains in formulating livestock rations.
When Alfalfa is included in a livestock ration it can reduce or eliminate the need for protein supplements while providing high levels of digestible energy its relatively high levels of calcium phosphorus and magnesium help to minimize mineral supplementation costs.
It is a versatile crop that can be used for pasture or as hay silage or green chop.Due to versatility yield potential and quality it can be used successfully in many types of livestock feeding programs.
Consequently it is highly sought and can be a profitable cash crop. It can also play an important role in crop rotations since it supplies substantial amounts of organic nitrogen to subsequent crops and has numerous other positive effects on soil fertility soil structure and soil health.
As the time passes there is an increase in the demand for high quality forage in the Southern USA which has spurred an expansion of Alfalfa production in the region. This expansion has been supported by several new and ongoing plant breeding. NewAlfalfa varieties more efficient harvest and curing systems and improved production practices have been developed.
The efforts have resulted in the sustainability of high Alfalfa yields forage quality and persistence in the South. Alfalfa is not a new crop in the South. It has been grown in the region since the late 1800's and continues to be recognized as a superb forage species. To date Alfalfa has not attained the status in the South that it has in other parts of the world. Like other regions Alfalfa acreage moved slowly upward for several decades in the early 1900's. Then with the arrival of the Alfalfa weevil in the late 1950's and an abundant supply of inexpensive nitrogen fertilizer However Alfalfa acreage fell sharply in the early 1960's.and its acreage has remained low.
Production problems include a lack of modern well adapted varieties and pest infestations limited Alfalfa yields and stand persistence. Low fertilizer and transportation costs during this era made it impractical for livestock producers in the South to grow their own Alfalfa. If they needed Alfalfa hay or other protein supplements it was more cost effective to import them from other regions.
Although fertilizer and transportation costs have increased substantially in recent years but still there is an increase in demand for high quality forage produce at the local level. As a result Alfalfa acreage in the South is increasing once again.
The grass-fed" meat and dairy products is making steady progress to overcome` potential for further acreage expansion is great.It is estimated that the region could easily produce and benefit from over 5 million acres.
A a whole around 80pc of the Alfalfa is harvested as hay. Most of the remainder is harvested for silage or baleage with a minor amount being harvested as green chop. About 45pc of it is used by horse producers around 40pc in the dairy industry and 15pc by beef cattle enterprises. A small quantity is used for sheep goats and other farm animals.
The Alfalfa weevil can be effectively controlled varieties are now available in the market and yields are increasing. In the upper South Alfalfa is usually harvested 3 to 5 times per year while the long growing season in the lower South often allows as many as 6 to 8 harvests.
However it can be harvested up to 12 times per year in Arizona and southern California. Total yields are typically around eight ton per hectare in temperate environments but yields have been recorded up to 20 t/ha.
Yields vary with region weather and the crop's stage of maturity when cut. Later cuttings improve yield but with reduced nutritional content
Alfalfa is a perennial forage legume which normally lives four to eight years but can live more than 20 years depending on variety and climate. The plant grows to a height of up to 1 m (3 ft) and has a deep root system.Sometimes it may stretche more than 15 m (49 ft). This makes it very resilient especially to droughts indicated National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance.
Alfalfa is a small seeded crop and has a slowly growing seedling but after several months of establishment forms a tough crown' at the top of the root system. This crown contains many shoot buds that enables Alfalfa to regrow many times after being grazed or harvested. This plant exhibits auto toxicity which means it is difficult for Alfalfa seed to grow in existing stands ofAlfalfa. ThereforeAlfalfa fields are recommended to be rotated with other species corn or wheat before reseeding.
Alfalfa can be sown in spring or fall and does best on well drained soils with a neutral pH of 6.8 to 75.It require ssustained levels of potassium and phos phorus to grow well. It is moderately sensitive to salt levels in both the soil and irrigation water. Although it continues to be grown in the arid southwestern US where salinity is an emerging issue. Soils low in fertility should be fertilized with manure or a chemical fertilizer but correction of pH is particularly important.Usually a seeding rate of 13 to 20 kg per hectare (12-25 lb/acre) is recommended with differences based upon region soil type and seeding method. Like other legumes its root nodules contain bacteria with the ability to fix nitrogen producing a high protein feed regardless of available nitrogen in the soil. Its nitrogen fixing abilityincreased soil nitrogen and its use as an animal feed greatly improves agricultural efficiency.
It can widely grown throughout the world as forage for cattle and is most often harvested as hay but can also be made into silage grazed or fed as green chop. Alfalfa usually has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops. It is used less frequently as pasture. When grown on soils where it is well adapted. Alfalfa is often the highest yielding forage plant but its primary benefit is the combination of high yield per hectare and high nutritional quality.
Its primary use is as feed for high producing dairy cows because of its high protein content and highly digestible fiber and secondarily for beef cattle horses sheep and goats. Alfalfa hay is the most widely used as fibre source in rabbit diets. In poultry diets dehydrated Alfalfa and its leaf concentrates are used for pigmenting eggs and meat due to their high content in carotenoids which are efficient for colouring egg yolk and body lipids.
Humans also eat Alfalfa sprouts in salads and sandwiches. Dehydrated Alfalfa leaf is commercially available as a dietary supplement in several forms such as tablets powders and tea. Alfalfa can cause bloating in livestock so care must be taken with livestock grazing on Alfalfa because of this hazard.
Alfalfa is considered an insectaries a place where insects are reared and has been proposed as helpful to other crops such as cotton if the two are interplanted because of harbors predatory and parasitic insects that would protect the other crop.
Cylindrical balesit is usually cut and baled.Loose haystacks are still used in some areas but bales are easier for use in transportation storage and feed. Ideally the first cutting should be taken at the bud stage and the subsequent cuttings just as the field is beginning to flower or one tenth bloom because carbohydrates are at their highest when using farm equipment rather.
Other bale sizes are three string and so on up to half ton square" bales actually rectangular and typically about 40 x 45 x 100 cm (14 x 18 x 38 in). Small square bales weigh from 25 to 30 kg (50 to 70 lb) depending on moisture and can be easily hand separated into flakes".
Cattle ranches use large round bales typically 1.4 to 1.8 m (4 to 6 ft) in diameter and weighing from 500 to 1000 kg (1000 to 2000 lbs). These bales can be placed in stable stacks or in large feeders for herds of horses or unrolled on the ground for large herds of cattle. The bales can be loaded and stacked with a tractor using a spike known as a bale spear that pierces the center of the bale or they can be handled with a grapple (claw) on the tractor's front end loader.A more recent innovation is large square" bales roughly the same proportions as the small squares but much larger. The bale size was set so stacks would fit perfectly on a large flatbed truck.
When used as feed for dairy cattle Alfalfa is often made into haylage by a process known as ensiling. Rather than drying it to make dry hay the Alfalfa is chopped finely and fermented in silos trenches or bagged where the oxygen supply can be limited to promote fermentation. The anaerobic fermentation ofAlfalfa allows it to retain high nutrient levels similar to those of fresh forage and is also more palatable to dairy cattle than dry hay.
Alfalfa is the most cultivated forage legume in the world. Its production was around 436 million ton in 2006. In 2009 Alfalfa was grown on approximately 30 million hectares (74000000 acres) worldwide; of this North America produced 41pc (11.9 million hectares; 29000000 acres).
Europe produced 25pc (7.12 million hectares; 17600000 acres) South America produced 23pc (7 million hectares; 17000000 acres) Asia produced 8pc (2.23 million hectares; 5500000 acres) and Africa and Oceania produced the remainder. The US was the largest Alfalfa producer in the world by area in 2009 with 9 million hectares (22lac acres) but considerable production area was found inArgentina (6.9 million hectares; 17lac acres) Canada (2 million hectares; 49lac acres) Russia (1.8 million hectares; 44lac acres) Italy (1.3 million hectares; 32lac acres) and China (1.3 million hectares; 32lac acres).
Considerable research and development has been done with this important plant. Older cultivars such as Vernal' have been the standard for years but many better public and private varieties adapted to particular climates are also available. Private companies release many new varieties each year in the market. Most of the varieties go dormant in the fall with reduced growth in response to low temperatures and shorter days.
Nondormant' varieties are grown through the winter as planted in long seasoned environments such as Mexico Arizona and Southern California whereas dormant' varieties are planted in the Upper Midwest Canada and the Northeast. Nondormant varieties can be higher yielding but they are susceptible to winter kill in cold climates and have poorer persistence.
A crop that is wild relative of Alfalfa naturally hybridizes with sativa to produce sand lucerne. This species may bear either the purple flowers of Alfalfa or the yellow of sickle medick and is called for its ready growth in sandy soil. Traits for insect resistance have also been introduced from M. glomerata and M. prostrata members of Alfalfa's secondary gene pool
Alfalfa seems to have originated in south central Asia and was first cultivated in Persia. It was introduced to Greece in about 490 BC when the Persians invaded as fodder for the army's cattle and horses and from there was introduced to Italy in the first century AD.
Alfalfa was briefly mentioned in the fourth century AD book Opus Agriculturae byPalladius stating: One sow-down lasts ten years. On an average the crop was cut four or six times a year. A jugerum of it was sufficient for three horses all the year. It may be given to cattle but new provender is at first to be administered very sparingly because it bloats up the cattle. Palladius called Alfalfa medica a name that referred to the Medes a person who lived in ancient Iran. This name is the root of the modern scientific name for the Alfalfa genus. Alfalfa was introduced to Spain in the eighth century during the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. The medieval Arabic agricultural writer Ibn al-'Awwam who lived in Spain in the later 12th century discussed how to sow and cultivate Alfalfa which he called (al-fafaa the best fodder") and a 13th-century general- purpose Arabic dictionary Lisan al-'Arab says that its was cultivated as an animal feed and consumed in both fresh and dried forms.
It is from the Arabic al- introducing the word alfalfa" to the English language fafaa that the Spanish Alfalfa was derived.
In the 16th century Spanish colonizers introduced Alfalfa to the western Americas as fodder for their horses. Alfalfa seeds were imported to California from Chile in the 1850s beginning a rapid and extensive introduction of the crop.
In the North American colonies of the eastern US in the 18th century it was called lucerne" and many trials at growing it were made. Its needs were not well understood and early attempts at growing it failed; relatively little Alfalfa was grown in the southeastern United States today. "Lucerne" is the name currently used for Alfalfa in France Germany and Britain and arose in the 16th century from the Provencal luzerno (glow worm") due to its shiny seeds. Since North and South America now produce a large part of the world's output the word alfalfa" has been slowly entering other languages.
The crop is high in protein calcium and other minerals vitamins in the B group vitamin C vitamin D vitamin E and vitamin K. The sun dried hay of Alfalfa has been found to be a source of vitamin D containing 48 ng/g (1920 IU/kg) vitamin D2 and 0.63 ng/g (25 IU/kg) vitamin D3.To vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 being found in the Alfalfa shoot.
Alfalfa has been used as an herbal medicine for over 1500 years.In early Chinese medicines physicians used young Alfalfa leaves to treat disorders related to the digestive tract and the kidneys.In Ayurvedic medicine physicians used the leaves for treating poor digestion.They made a cooling poultice from the seeds for boils. At the time Alfalfa was also beneficial to people suffering from arthritis and water retention. Howeverthe US National Institutes of Health reports that there is insufficient evidence to evaluate the medicinal value ofAlfalfa.
On farm yields averaged is 3 to 4 ton of hay per acre with top producers often gets 6 or more ton per acre without irrigation and 8 or more ton per acre when irrigated. Yields of over 9 ton per acre have been attained in research trials in several southern states with a 10.13 ton without irrigation.
Alfalfa is no longer a neglected crop as dozens of research studies and demonstrations are currently in progress all over the world. Moreover in many countries due to the current interest enthusiasm and effort that Alfalfa is presently receiving as well as the
Table - 1
###Nutritional Value per 100g
Energy###96 kJ (23 kcal)
Dietary fiber###1.9 g
Thiamine (B1)###(7%) 0.076 mg
Riboflavin (B2)###(11%)0.126 mg
Niacin (B3)###(3%)0.481 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)###(11%)0.563 mg
Vitamin B6###(3%)0.034 mg
Folate (B9)###(9%)36 Ag
Vitamin C###(10%)8.2 mg
Vitamin K###(29%)30.5 Ag
known need and potential for acreage expansion the future of this magnificent forage crop appears bright.
Profitable Aalfalfa production requires obtaining high yields of high quality forage a long stand life and skillful marketing of the product. This requires attention to details timely action and planning.
There are four basic prerequisites for successful production.
Selection of a well drained site that allows for the development of a deep and healthy root system.
A willingness to apply fertilizer and lime and control pests as required.
The ability to harvest in a timely manner.
A viable strategy for marketing or otherwise utilizing theAlfalfa.
Alfalfa requires a well drained soil for optimum production and long stand life. Progress has been made in variety improvement. Level land is not a requirement for Alfalfa but safe operation of machinery must be considered. Sites with a high water table a shallow hardpan bedrock or other impediment to root development are also not well suited for Alfalfa production.
Alfalfa production requires obtaining high yields of high quality forage a long stand life and skillful marketing of the product. This requires attention to details timely action and planning.
A soil test is the most important investment in an Alfalfa fertility program. The soil test should be used as a guide to determine application rates of lime phosphorus and potassium. Tissue analyses taken within 10 days of a summertime harvest can also fine tune fertilizer needs.
Alfalfa grows best and sustains longer lived stands when the soil pH is maintained at 6.5 to 6.8. Nitrogen fixation in the root nodules will be reduced as pH decreases.
Soil test and fertilize according to the recommendations for good yield persistence and profit variety selection proper variety selection can have a dramatic impact on yield quality and stand longevity. Select adapted high yielding and pest resistant varieties. Consider using more than one variety if the planting involves a large acreage.
Most of the companies market Alfalfa seed that have been coated with an inert material usually lime to protect the inoculant. Use of pre-inoculated seed saves time and helps to ensure adequate and appropriate inoculation has occurred. Coated seed normally flows faster through most seeding equipment. If the seed is not pre-inoculated or the inoculant coating is suspected of being ineffective inoculate the seed just before planting with fresh inoculant specific to Alfalfa.
Protect packages of inoculants from direct sunlight or hot temperatures. Use a commercially available adhesive or some type of sticking agent to ensure that sufficient inoculant is stuck to each seed.One 8-ounce bag of inoculant will generally be enough to inoculate one bag of seed. However always read and follow the label instructions.
Weed Control - During Establishment
Weeds can drastically reduce Alfalfa stands yields and forage quality. The stands are especially susceptible to weeds during establishment. There are plants that were incorporated herbicides to control many grassy weeds that germinate and compete with Alfalfa. However these herbicides generally do not provide much control of broadleaf weeds thus post emergence herbicide applications may be necessary.
Seeding into a firm seedbed and cultipacking will ensure proper seed soil contact. Regardless of seeding method the seed must not be planted too deep 1/8 to 1/4 in. in clay loam soils; 1/4 to 1/2 in. in sandy loam or sandy soils.
Alfalfa can also be planted with a no-till drill into sods or other vegetative cover that is dormant or that has been suppressed with herbicides. By seeding no-till rather than in tilled seedbeds soil erosion is drastically reduced rocks remain below the surface and soil moisture is conserved less time and fuel is expended and seedings can be made in a more timely manner.
Research and experience have shown that the vegetative cover must be dormant or dead before seeding. When planting into dead or dormant sod insects must be controlled to prevent stand loss. Lime and fertilizer applications should be made well in advance of seeding and perennial weeds need to be controlled prior to seeding.
Fertilizing Established Stands
Alfalfa stands must have adequate soil fertility to be vigorous. Well-nodulated stands need no nitrogen but lime phosphorus and potash must be added according to soil test recommendations. Boron molybdenum and possibly other micronutrients may also need to be applied.
Check state and local recommendations for amounts and timing.Alfalfa like any other high yielding crop is a heavy user of soil nutrients.each ton ofAlfalfa hay may remove as much as 15 lbs of phosphate and 60 lbs of potash. Productive high yielding stands require that these nutrients be returned to the soil in order to maintain high yields and to persist. Since grass competes vigorously withAlfalfa for potassium higher potassium rates may be necessary for Alfalfa grass mixtures.
Soils differ in their capacity to supply nutrients and annual soil tests should be made to monitor fertility changes and avoid the occurrence of critical deficiencies. For high yields the pH level should be maintained at 6.5 to 6.8. Corrective fertilization can be practiced at any time during the year. However a good time to lime and fertilize the stand is after the last harvest of the growing season and before growth begins the next growing season. In soils where leaching is possible (sandy soils) one half of the annual potassium fertilizer should be applied after the second cutting of the growing season.
Weed Free Alfalfa Field
The most important and effective weed control factor is a Aense thick vigorous stand of Alfalfa. Harvesting Alfalfa at the appropriateing stage of maturity will also help prevent weed encroachment. Proper cutting height can kill or reduce the vigor of many weeds but will not injure Alfalfa.
Many different weeds can become a problem in Alfalfa but herbicides are available for control of most of the weeds in Alfalfa stands. In addition to selective herbicides used during regrowing some broad spectrum and non-selective herbicides can be used in dormant stands and in some cases immediately following harvest.
Bacterial wilt leaf spot anthracnose and phytophthora are the diseases that generally cause the most serious damage to its stands although several other diseases can reduce yields or damage stands.
Practices that help control Alfalfa diseases are:
a) Use certified seed of a recommended variety. AIfalfa particular disease is known to be present on the farm select a variety knownto have resistance to that disease.
) Avoid seeding Alfalfa in soils where Alfalfa or clover was grown during the preceding two years. This will reduce damage from sod- or plant debris borne disease organisms. When possible plant into a site that has produced a cultivated crop for the previous 2 or 3 years.
c) In the upper South make summer seedings before August 15 to provide stands with sufficient growth before cold weather to withstand winter injury and reduce the risk of Sclerotinia crown and root rot and heaving. Depending on location Alfalfa may be seeded as late as early November.
d) Allow Alfalfa to go into the winter after the last cutting with enough growth (usually 6-8 inches) to develop sufficient root reserves.
e) Follow the recommended practices for liming fertilizing seeding and cutting.
f) Control insects to prevent weakening the plants and making them more susceptible to diseases.
Alfalfa Harvesting for Quality
Alfalfa alone or in grass mixtures may be used as hay baleage or silage. The latter two methods are increasing in use. A higher quality feed better suited for mechanized handling and feeding can be preserved by making silage or baleage particularly from the spring growth. Since less drying is required than for hay fewer leaves are usually lost and there is less risk of rain damage. Under favorable drying conditions the forage can be mowed chopped and placed in the silo or baled on the same day.
Research shows the effectiveness of some chemical preservatives and microbial inoculants that permit hay to be safely stored at higher moisture contents.
In general the quality of Alfalfa decreases as the plant transitions from vegetative to reproductive stages can be seen in Table-1. However yields increased during this transitional phase. Alfalfa cut in the range of late bud to early bloom will result in acceptable yields of high quality feed with a minimal effect on stand persistence.
Good quality Alfalfa should contain from 17 to
20pc crude protein (CP) and 60 to 65pc total digestible nutrients (TDN). Six ton of good Alfalfa hay contains more digestible energy than 150 bushels of corn and more protein than 2 ton of soybean meal.
Alfalfa may actually stimulate intake both livestock that are consuming low quality forages.Management greatly affects quality of the forage harvested. As Alfalfa plants advance from the vegetative to the reproductive (flowering) stage they become higher in fiber and lignin lower in protein content and digestibility and less acceptable to livestock (Table-1).
LeafinessFiber digestibility and protein energy and mineral content are much higher in leaves than in stems. The leaf loss during the cutting raking and baling processes can reduce Alfalfa quality (Table- 2).
A hay crop with bright green color indicates proper curing high carotene content and good palatability. However a light color change usually does not indicate significantly reduced forage quality. Hay that has been either sunbleached or has had a small amount of rain damage still can be good quality feed despite some discoloration. Regardless of cause some hay buyers discount hay that is discolored.
Odor and Condition
The smell of newly mowed hay is the standard with which to compare all hay odors. Musty or putrefied (rotten) odors indicate poor quality. Foul odors and dustiness can lower the quality Table 2: The Effect of Handling Conditions on Alfalfa Hay palatability and reduce hay value especially in horse markets. Common causes of odor problems are weather damage during curing or baling and storing at moisture levels that are too high.
Alfalfa grass mixtures can provide exceptionally high quality pasture.Alfalfa's high forage quality allows for beef stocker and finishing gains that exceed 2.5 pounds per day. It is best to use some type of managed grazing i.e. rotational stocking system. The efficiency of Alfalfa production is greatest when a stand is allowed to accumulate to the bud to early bloom stage grazed to a stubble height of 2 to 4 inches and then allowed to rest for 25 to 30 days.
The first rotation cycle of the grazing season is typically the most difficult to manage due to rapid forage growth. It is often necessary to initiate grazing at an early growth stage and defer some paddocks in the rotation. Deferred paddocks can be harvested as hay at its optimal maturity.
Varieties are recommended to be the commercial development of temporary portable fence and water systems has made controlled grazing practices affordable and practical for producers to implement.
Managed grazing allows better control over the forage supply and reduces waste. In managed grazing forage utilization efficiency improves when the animals are rotated among more and smaller pastures paddocks. Alfalfa can also be effectively utilized as a creep grazing crop. This is most effective when mature animals with relatively low nutrient requirements i.e. beef cows are mixed with animals with high nutrient needs i.e. nursing calves. Construction of a creep gate that allows calves to pass into an adjacent Alfalfa pasture while restricting cow access is a simple and often cost effective supplementation strategy. Ruminants can occasionally bloat when grazing Alfalfa but this risk can be minimized by following some simple management practices.
Bloat normally occurs when hungry animals are turned into vegetative paddocks and are allowed the opportunity to gorge on freshAlfalfa. It also may occur when cattle are introduced to an Alfalfa pasture in early morning hours to dew-laden paddocks. Bloat risk can be minimized by introducing animals to fresh paddocks only when they are not hungry.
Rotating animals in late morning or early afternoon is also beneficial. Older stands of Alfalfa can be inter seeded with cool season grasses to minimize bloat risk and improve production potential. Mixed grass and Alfalfa stands are often higher yielding than pure Alfalfa pastures and may also provide a more consistent forage growth pattern so that forage can more easily managed.
Alfalfa in a Crop Rotation
Alfalfa can be used in rotation with other crops. On farms with land too steep for continuous corn a rotation of silage corn and Aalfalfa either in strips or whole fieldsoften produced more forage than any other rotation. Alfalfa helps stabilize the soil reduces erosionimproves soil structure. Alfalfa usually provides 100 or more pounds of nitrogen per acre to the crop that follows it in a rotation.
A3 to 5 year rotation allows utilization ofAlfalfa during its most productive period. The stand may then be plowed or planted no-till to another crop before it becomes more susceptible to disease and weed problems and begins to thin. Alfalfa should never be replanted into the same field for at least one year due to the alleopathic effect of mature plants on development of new seedlings and minimal risk of disease for the new planting.
Alfalfa as a Wildlife Plant Alfalfa has always been a wildlife plant; wild animals use Alfalfa fields and other forage plantings anytime they choose. However in recent years there has been a substantial amount of Alfalfa planted specifically for wildlife especially for deer. This has occurred largely because of the development and commercial availability of grazing tolerant varieties that hold up much better under continuous or close grazing than do hay type varieties.
Advantages of Alfalfa
Advantages Alfalfa offers are mostly the same as those it offers to livestock: high forage quality excellent palatability good dry matter yield and drought tolerance. Also a pacroprticularly valuable trait ofAlfalfa in wildlife food plots is its long growing season which helps ensuring that wild animals will have access to good quality forage whenever they need it. For birds of many species including quail and wild turkey insects found within anAalfalfa stand provide an excellent source of protein.
The crop requires more precision during planting higher pH and fertility and more management in general than most plants commonly established for wildlife. However the excellent nutrition it provides helps increase body weights facilitates rebreeding and favors antler development in buck deer.
Many wildlife enthusiasts who have triedAlfalfa particularly those who are serious about providing year around high levels of nutrition to animals have had outstanding success assuming they have followed the basic agronomic principles known to be important in growing the crop.
Recent Economic Considerations
Recent price increase in supplemental feeds minerals and transportation costs have placed a premium on high quality.
Now with new Alfalfa varieties more efficient harvest and curing systems and improved production practices has become increasingly feasible to grow Alfalfa in the South.
However a thorough look at the costs and benefits is an important first step in determining if intend to grow Alfalfa the total annual cost of producing and harvesting. Alfalfa also depends on the fertility level of land. Furthermore the annual perunit" cost ofAlfalfa is also influenced by the crop's yield the harvest method used i.e. grazing square baled hay round baled hay silage etc. pest and disease pressure the life expectancy of the stand and other production considerations. As a result each production system will be different.
Therefore it is recommended that a budget be developed for each specific production system being evaluated. Though Alfalfa has a relatively high production cost when compared to other forage crops but it is similar to the cost of producing many other row crops. However the potential return on investment for Alfalfa enterprises can be quite high.
It is also important for a producer to consider what he or she is getting for their money and effort when growingAlfalfa. The forage quality ofAlfalfa is excellent often containing over 16pc crude protein and 60pc total digestible nutrients (TDN) onc a dry matter basis. Some farmers have realized that Alfalfa has excellent cash crop potential and routinely sell all of the hay they have produced.
The economics of producing Alfalfa become increasingly attractive at high yield levels or a long stand life. Fixed costs per acre and the establishment costs are relatively high but once these expenses have been offset additional increase in yield or increased length of stand life of this high value crop tend to rapidly increase net profit. Thus it is very important to manage Alfalfa in a way that would otherwise emphasize high yields and a long stand life.
Value in Crop Rotations
The amount of nitrogen available to a crop planted behind Alfalfa can easily exceed 100 pounds per acre. With current nitrogen prices 100 lbs of nitrogen is quite valuable. The crop is also a deep rooted crop that leaves root channels in the soil thus allowing the roots of the following crop to penetrate more deeply than be possible.
Reduced pest problems in row crops planted in rotation with Alfalfa as compared with continuous row cropping adds additional value. It is difficult to estimate the true value of the contribution that Alfalfa makes to a succeeding crop. Rresearch and experience has shown that corn yields typically increase by at least 10 to 15pc when followingAlfalfa.
Alfalfa's Value to the Soil
Data from the University of Missouri indicated that the average soil losses per acre for various crops from fields having a 5pc slope 200 feet long would be as follows:
Soybeans - 14 to 35 ton; corn or grain sorghum - 13 to 25 ton; wheat - 8 to 13 ton; and Alfalfa - 2 to 4 ton. This loss is again difficult to quantify in terms of dollars but every good farmer is aware of what such soil losses will mean to him.
Importance of a Diverse Marketing Plan
The best laid plans do not always come to fruition. For example Alfalfa hay producers quite commonly have some cuttings that are too low in quality too weedy or too damaged to be acceptable to the premium cash hay market.
A diversified marketing plan will help one deal with such eventualities. If a producer's primary outlet is the premium hay market then it may be helpful to have a side market for marginal or rain damaged hay lots. This may include selling the lower quality forage to neighboring livestock operations or marketing it through their own livestock.
In short Alfalfa is not for everyone.But it could be a tremendous asset on many farms. When farmers" objectively consider the facts with regard to the economics of growing Alfalfa and the recent developments that make Alfalfa production more feasible they often find that it has great potential on their farms. In fact some might find that Alfalfa has the potential of being the most profitable enterprise on their farms.
Fodder Oats in Pakistan
Muhammad Dost writes that the introduction of improved cultivars of oats has changed the status of the oat crop in Pakistan in less than twenty years from a minor crop limited to a few stations to one of the most important cool season fodders. Crop residues and fodder form the basis of the ration with concentrates for commercial stock. Agricultural land is limited so increased forage availability has to be through increasing yield per unit area. Introduction of the new oat cultivars coincided with expansion of dairying and gave impetus to commercial forage growing in the irrigated tracts. Special attention is given to the great success of oats in the Northern Areas at altitudes from 1000 to 2300m to help over winter stock that grazes alpine pastures in summer.
Pakistan has a svere fodder shortage with two pronounced deficit periods. The most serious deficit period is December to January when the traditional winter fodders of berseem are dormant. The other critical period is May to June when the summer fodders of maize have only just begun growth but the winter fodders are finished. Until recently seed of improved fodders especially multicut oats has not been available so there has been a scarcity of fodder in terms of both quantity and quality.
Berseem is a case of successful introduction and was uptaken by the farming community. It was introduced to Sindh from Egypt between eighty and ninety years ago and within twenty years it became the main winter forage throughout lowland Pakistan and the northern irrigated tracts of India. Oats in terms of world production of cereals th at are widely used as a companion crop for under sowing forage legumes. Oats are mainly grown in temperate and cool subtropical environments. In Pakistan they are an important winter fodder in both irrigated and rain fed areas. The green yield of local oat landraces under rain fed conditions is about 20 ton per hectare which is insufficient to provide even maintenance for the number of livestock kept. In winter dairies have to buy fodder in large quantities from distant irrigated tracts. In contrast to local landraces improved oats grow faster can be cut earlier and provide feed during the cold period.
In Balochistan wheat is a traditional fodder but with the introduction of improved oats use of wheat fodder has fallen. Farmers harvest oats at 50 percent flowering or later to maximize yield but at the expense of quality.
Farming systems and cropping patterns
In Pakistan most of the crop production is in four major farming systems reflecting local agro- ecological zones defined by climatic conditions dependence on irrigation or rainfall temperatures soil fertility and land holding size.
The areas of south Sindh and parts of Balochistan have subtropical conditions Pearl millet sorghum maize sugarcane barley and oats are common. The major winter forages are oats berseem lucerne vetch and mustard; summer forage crops are maize sorghum sorghum Sudan grass hybrid pearl millet cowpea and guar are cultivated.
Most of the farmers in rain fed regions grow local landraces of traditional forages. Livestock in winter green wheat is fed.That resulted in poor health and less production. In droughts even productive animals are sold to get cash for domestic needs.
Rising transport costs have encouraged the making of oat hay. Huge quantities of oats are now regularly made into excellent hay baled and transported over long distances. In the 1950s and 1960s oats were grown mainly to provide hay for horses then the main transport animal in rural and urban areas. The rapid rise in the popularity of oats over the last fifteen years was due to the introduction of high yielding cultivars. In the late 1980s the dairy industry began to expand and more and more milk marketing outlets were set up.
Forage production is an important business especially near big cities with a range of crops grown to maintain a year round supply. Improved multicut oats are very popular in urban irrigated areas and have almost replaced poor quality wheat and rice straw as the basis of winter feed; berseem provides very high quality cool season forage and is marketed in vast quantities but production peaks in spring and is poor in the coldest months. Improved oats provide forage in cold weather and are replacing the forage brassicas that were formerly used in the winter gap.
Forage yields are low compared to their potential. Improved cultivars and technology have been slow to reach the small farms that account for the bulk of production and seed production has lagged behind plant breeding and introduction. Recent research indicated that yields could be raised by two to three times using available cultivars and technology. Land and irrigation are the major limiting factors to increase fodder production intensification is the only way to meet the country's needs for forage.
Fodder oats were introduced during the early British era but it was only in the 1970s that 400 cultivars were acquired from Australia Canada Europe New Zealand and USA to form the basis of Pakistan's oat improvement programme.
Further importations were made under a World Bank Hill Farming Project for Azad Kashmir in the 1980s. Some of this material still plays an important role across a wide range of ecologies. The National Agricultural Research Centre's (NARC) Fodder Research Programme also introduced material from Western countries in the mid-1980s.
The Fodder Research Institute Sargodha is the main institution handling the basic seed production of improved or promising forages. It has 200 hectare of irrigated land for breeding evaluating and screening management testing selecting and recommending forages especially for the irrigated tracts. It has substations in Faisalabad and Bahawalpur in different eco-climates. As a result of the improved access of the farming communities to seeds of improved forage cultivars around Sargodha and Faisalabad both cities are now major sources of fodder as a cash crop which is hauled over great distances throughout Punjab.
Improved oats have now been used by farmers usually around big cities for some 20 years; they provide assured feed in early winter if sown at the end of August or early September to be cut in late November or early December.
Seed Multiplication and Extension
NARC is introducing new varieties of forage crops in Pakistan and evaluates all introduced forage cultivars for forage and grain yield traits. NARC and FRI Sargodha have larger areas for bulking seed which is then sold to small scale farmers commercial growers government agencies private dairy farms agencies and organizations interested in fodder production and development. Most of the seed of improved forage and cereal cultivars is produced by private companies government centers' and to a limited extent commercial growers. The bulk is purchased for further multiplication and the surplus sold to private dealers who market it in rural areas. Local seed dealers are the main source of oat seeds for small and large scale commercial farmers.
Until recently small scale farmers did not know the potential of forage oats and never grew them. Bridging the gap between improved cultivars and technology and the fodder growing on farmers' fields was a clear challenge. An FAO assisted project in the early 1990s organized demonstrations and supported larger scale multiplication of promising well tested forage cultivars. The outputs and findings of this successful project which gave a great impetus to commercial oat growing were reported by Bhatti.
Dealers became a major means of oat seed bulking. Seed procured by dealers is now regularly traded in rural markets. Most of the farmers save most of their own seed. Oats in the Northern Areas
New oat cultivars introduced to the Northern Areas have proved to be valuable since they grow much earlier and more vigorously than traditional winter cereals. Green oats are cut in Gilgit and Chilas when no other green feed is available. Higher yields (up to three times) are produced in the 1000 to 2300m compared with lower zones possibly reflecting better agro-ecological adaptation. Many cultivars have been positively evaluated in winter up to alpine areas around 2300m. Feeding green oats to cows in Oat fodder is important in the plains during autumn winter and spring and in the mountains in autumn spring and early summer.
Feeding green oats to cows reported that forage yield dry matter yield and crude fiber increased with advancing maturity while crude protein declined. Harvest at 50 percent flowering resulted in superior forage and dry matter yields but inferior nutritive forage value defined by lower crude protein and higher crude fibber contents compared with harvesting at the vegetative stage at 70 or 85 days after sowing. Minimum forage and dry matter yields with maximum forage quality came from harvesting at the mid-vegetative stage 70 to 85 days after sowing. Young cereal plants provide excellent quality herbage which is highly nutritious for lactating ewes and young growing lambs.
Time from sowing to heading or maturity is a good indicator for the selection of dual purpose crops. In the high rainfall areas of Punjab the recommended dualpurpose oat cv. S-81 was the earliest to mature after heavy defoliation. It was however the latest when ungrazed and grown for grain.
Oat Research and Development
NARC evaluated 400 cultivars in 1970s throughout Pakistan and based on maximum forage yield dry matter yield and maturity selected 20 that were then further evaluated in all four provinces in the autumn rabi season under a wide variety of conditions to select and recommend the most suitable for different agro-ecological regions.The local farming systems and a great deal of research is being carried out in the four provinces of Pakistan as part of a national coordinated fodder research programme.
Considerable genotype A- environment interaction has been noted across latitude altitude seasonal sequence and management regimes; this is poorly documented in Pakistan. Effectiveness of a variety testing programme is influenced by experimental design number of locations and the number of years used to average variety means. Information is required as to whether forage oat varieties respond differently when planted under diverse environment interactions and if so how important such genotype A- environment interactions might be in an oat variety evaluation and selection programme.
Oats as a Mmulticut Crop
Compared with wheat and barley in Pakistan oats provide multiplecuts tiller profusely yield more and are of higher nutritional value. Standing oats can be cut progressively releasing land earlier than normal for follow on crops or relay cropping. Any remaining oats can be dried as hay. This coincides with optimum soil moisture for land cultivation and sowing of the following crop and also allows small areas or peripheral lines on terraces to be saved for seed.
In many but not all instances more recently bred cultivars out yield older ones. Although the use of oats as a multicut crop is common in Pakistan relatively limited research data are available to aid the farmer in the selection of the best forage harvest schedule for the dual utilization of oats to attain high forage yield seed yield and good forage quality.
Bhatti Hussain and Mohamamd evaluated 13 oat cultivars under a two cut system at Islamabad during 1985-86 and 1986-87 and found that the cultivars PD2-LV 65 and S-81 produced 28.05 percent and 26.24 percent more green forage and 26.30 percent and 21.93 percent more dry matter yield respectively in two cuttings compared with the control. Thus oat cultivars PD2-LV 65 and S-81 were found suitable for multicut systems under both irrigated and rainfed conditions.
Oats as an Intercrop
In order to obtain early and good yields on small holdings in winter compatible fodder crops may be sown in mixture to produce higher fodder yields and quality per unit area per season (Table 6.3). Low growing leguminous fodders such as berseem and vetch can be mixed with oats ryegrass brassicas etc. Oat+vetch and barley+vetch combinations produced on average 110 and 70 ton per hectare of green material compared with 100 and 56 ton per hectare pure oat and barley stands respectively.
A deep rooted crop like lucerne can be mixed with shallow rooted ones like oats rye barley or a brassica; the annual is usually sown between the rows of perennial fodder. This technology has been demonstrated to the farmers in the Northern Areas. There are many advantages of mixed sowing over pure: more than one crop per season per unit area; weed control is easier; yields are higher than pure sown crops; and fodder is of better quality. Oats were intercropped in winter-active lucerne and red clover in rows 30 cm apart at several sites. The mixtures of lucerne+oats red clover+oats and berseem+oats produced greater green and dry matter yields compared with the sole crops of either legume. The results are presented in Table 2.
Alfalfa Seed Export Markets
It is important that the industry have mechanisms to maintain current production practices for specific markets which may reject or be sensitive to new GE traits while allowing for the adoption of new technologies which are deemed to be safe effective and economically valuable.
The NationalAlfalfa and ForageAlliance (NAFA) and USDA-FAS statistics reported the value of the USAlfalfa seed export market averaged $42.8 million dollars annually from 2003 to 2006. The quantity of exported seed ranged from 23.9 to 36.7 million pounds during the 2002 to 2006 period. When the quantity of coated seed is estimated and the coating weight was deducted from US government statistics the estimates of the quantity of raw seed exported was about 21 million pounds. Seed is exported to 63 countries. Mexico Saudi Arabia Argentina and Canada are the largest markets accounting for over 75pc of total US Alfalfa seed exports.
Non-dormant Alfalfa varieties are adapted to geographies with very long growing seasons. Seed of non-dormant varieties make up greater than 80pc of US Alfalfa seed export. Most of the non-dormant seed destined for export markets is produced in California. The California Crop Improvement Association estimates that 50pc of the Alfalfa seed produced in the state is exported out of the country.
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) produces a small portion of the seed for the non-dormant export market and virtually all of the seed of the dormant variety export market. About 60pc of the US Alfalfa dormant variety seed export is to Canada.
Each country establishes its own policies and regulations with regard to the importation of seed traits similar to that in the US while some do not have a system for deregulating GE products e.g. Saudi Arabia. Countries without a the deregulation are Mexico and regulatory system do not accept the import of any GE variety seed.
In thosecountries with procedures in place to completely deregulate GE products there are established mechanisms to remove legal barriers for import of GE seed. Alfalfa has been deregulated in Canada and Japan.
In countries where Alfalfa has not been deregulated the US exporters may be required to provide written statements that their seed does not contain GE material. Prior to the the US Federal Seed Lab was willing to provide US Alfalfa seed exporters with a GE declarationwarranty to accompany shipments. However the Federal Seed Lab is no longer willing to /provide this declaration. In the absence of international trading standards for GE seed individual companies must determine their own policies standards and procedures. Seed exporters bear the risks associated with actions that may be taken by the government of an importing country determine imported seed violates their policy. USDA FAS reports that producers across Germany were under threat to destroy about 3700 acres (1500 hectares) of sown rapeseed because after planting it was discovered that the seed contained trace amounts of an EU-unapproved biotech event. Prior to planting the seed in question had tested negative for biotech content several times.
The NAFABest Management Practices for seed production are appropriate for conventional Alfalfa seed grown for non-GE sensitive markets. Production of Alfalfa seed for GE sensitive export markets requires additional precautions. A strategy to mitigate the risks of low level presence (LLP) of GE traits in Alfalfa produced for GE sensitive export markets should be based on several principles pertaining to seed production including the following: Strategy to mitigate LLPof GE traits in Alfalfaseed produced for gesensitive export markets.
Individual Seed Company Activities
Verification of non-detectable GE trait(s) in seed stock used for export of seed production. Protein based detection kits are now commercially available from Strategic Diagnostics Inc. and Envirologix Inc. and a testing protocol has been developed and validated by the manufacturers and others.
Higher standards for isolation of seed fields based on end market risk. Export seed producers who require GE free seed should consider using greater isolation from any other Alfalfa field e.g. greater than 900 ft 1 mile or 3 miles when using leafcutter bees alkali bees or honey bees for pollination respectively.
The establishment of GE free seed production zones based on local seed producer consensus. The Imperial Valley of California produces more than 75pc of the California Alfalfa seed export market Seed Production
The introduction of improved cultivars is one of the quickest methods of improving and enhancing yields of all crops. Soon after identification of potential new cultivars seed bulking seed distribution and ensuring seed availability to the common farmer are important steps Therefore all the effort involved in introducing evaluating and selecting improved forages is in vain if there is insufficient seed produced and made available to the farmer.
In Pakistan most seed of improved forage and grain cultivars is produced by private companies government centers and to a limited extent by commercial growers. NARC produces annually almost enough to sow 500 hectares. The seed thus bulked is sold to farmers commercial growers government and private dairy farms and other agencies and organizations interested in improved oat fodder production and development. In recent years seed of improved oats has also been sold to the FAO Afghan Programme for multiplication and distribution there.
The development of improved oat cultivar seed produced and sold by NARC and others indicated a steady increase in the production of improved seed. However the demand for improved seed is much greater than the quantities marketed. All the seed of improved fodder oats is used for further increase and subsequent sale to fodder growers of the area.
Livestock have always been a very important part of the agricultural system in Pakistan but lack of good quality fodder has been an ongoing major constraint on production. Pakistan faces a situation where there is insufficient fodder in terms of both quantity and quality. High quality fodder is necessary if better returns are to be obtained from improved breeds. Technical development to improve forage production and supplies could be of immense benefit to the health and prosperity of the people. Oats have proved to be outstanding winter forage throughout Pakistan particularly for the peri-urban dairies supplying the big cities and in the high altitude temperate in northern regions. Growing oats ensures production of maximum quantities of early nutritious forage in the deficit periods in winter. It is safe to claim that oats have brought a winter forage green revolution in Pakistan.
Howeverover the past two decades improved oat cultivars have had a significant impact in improving quality and availability of livestock feed and hence on the lives of people living in resource poor areas of Pakistan. Forage from oats has helped significantly of the national forage research programme extension services private seed companies and NGOs.
Commitment from all industry stakeholders and recognition of producer rights to companies to work with each other to ensure each produce to meet market specific standards for both GE and conventional varieties. Involvement and commitment of other industry stakeholders is essential. Industry input in drafting adopting and implementation of NAFA BMP's for RRA Seed Production demonstrates the growing consensus that coexistence is an industry rather than an individual company concern and priority. It will be in the individual and collective best interests of company can produce seed of the required seed quality appropriate for various markets. This has been the basis for certified seed production since the early 1900's.
The Alfalfa seed industry strongly encouraged the development and implementation of the new AOSCA identity preserved program which is well suited to serve the needs of the exporting GE sensitive alfalfa seed producers.
The US government assistance in export markets to mitigate risks associated with LLP. The industry encourages the assistance of the US government to support US Alfalfa seed exports. Government to government communication to provide information and education regarding this issue Awould be useful.
Coexistence is not a new phenomenon in agriculture. For decades it has been a requirement for many producers of crops such as sweet corn and canola in situations where neighboring crops may affect marketability of a specific quality trait.. Coexistence is based on good communication and mutual respect between neighbors and individuals who have adopted different approaches to agriculture.
In developing coexistence strategies it must be acknowledged that commercial agricultural product purity is not absolute. Existing tolerances vary by customer preference. Thus tolerances for low level presence should be considered in that context. Practical acceptable low level tolerances for impurities such as variety off types weeds and inert materials have been established for many crop products and are managed within process-based strategies such as the Certified Seed (AOSCA 2003) and the National Organic Program (NOP) (USDA 2005a; USDA 2005b).