what is alfalfa used for in agriculture



Alfalfa (/ ælˈfælfə /) (Medicago sativa), also called lucerne, is a perennial flowering plant in the legume family Fabaceae. It is cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop.

Alfalfa hay is used primarily as animal feed for dairy cows but also for horses, beef cattle, sheep, chickens, turkeys and other farm animals. The value of milk, meat, wool and all other animal products is $132 billion, thus the total value of animal products plus the value of hay reach the $145 billion level.Feb 8, 2000


What farm equipment do you need to grow alfalfa?

Alfalfa can be a very productive crop with high levels of biomass accumulation. The record yield of one acre of alfalfa is 10 tons. Alfalfa hay is used as a feed primarily for dairy cows but also for horses, beef cattle, sheep, and other farm animals.

What parts of alfalfa are used in medicine?

The demand for protein is growing with increased populations and world affluence. A sustainable and affordable protein source is needed to support the growing aquaculture industry worldwide. Alfalfa produces high levels of protein and provides numerous environmental services, potentially making it an ideal feedstock in aquaculture.

What are the benefits of alfalfa?

Alfalfa can be used as an important break crop in the rotation and most crops can follow alfalfa with the exception of certain root crops such as sugarbeet, because of the high amount of root residue left in the soil. Alfalfa is a perennial crop and produces its highest yields during the second year of growth.

Do horses like alfalfa?

The main use of alfalfa grass is as a feed source for ruminants with animals being permitted to graze on the crop from early spring to fall. If seed production is required for a designated season the crop will be left to flower with pollination occurring around July …

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Management of Spring-Frosted Alfalfa. Salvaging Crops After Flooding. Soil & Fertility. Alfalfa Soil Fertility Requirements in North Dakota Soils (SF1863) Fertilizing Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Red Clover and Sweetclover in North Dakota (SF1865) Sulfur Fertilization of Alfalfa. Weed.


What does alfalfa do for the soil?

Not only does alfalfa help prevent soil erosion, but it also protects and improves the soil with its protective canopy, deep root system, and ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Soil erosion is a major problem in agriculture.

Why do farmers use alfalfa?

Farmers admire alfalfa for its high yield, wide adaptation, disease resistance, and excellent feeding quality to a variety of livestock. Acreage and value of producfion of the top six U.S. crops in 2018. Alfalfa hay and haylage was the third most valuable crop, behind corn and soybean.

Does alfalfa help plants?

The meal of Alfalfa contains a growth hormone (triacontanol) that helps stimulate plant roots’ growth. Furthermore, it increases beneficial soil microbes and enhances photosynthesis. Adding alfalfa pellets or meal to your soil can also help reduce nematodes.

Can you make money growing alfalfa?

Over a three-year average, alfalfa returns a profit of $98.82/acre compared to a $44.77/acre return for corn and $39.68/acre for soybeans, Miller estimated using information from Midwestern farms compiled through the FINBIN database.

Is alfalfa a good cash crop?

Increased profits from alfalfa—Top dairymen know alfalfa is their most profitable crop. The high yield of high quality forage results in the greatest milk or meat production per acre of any forage. Alfalfa is cost competitive with corn silage on a dry mat- ter basis.

Does alfalfa make good fertilizer?

Alfalfa Lawn and Garden Benefits Alfalfa Pellets act as a slow-release fertilizer that is an excellent source of nitrogen. Alfalfa also contains trace minerals and triacontanol, a naturally occurring growth promoter, which is great for roses!

Is alfalfa good for tomatoes?

Alfalfa meal is the best all-around fertilizer I’ve found for tomatoes and other summer vegetables. Kelp Meal for potassium, trace minerals, and growth factors that boost plant immunity.

Is alfalfa good for compost?

Using Alfalfa Meal As a Compost Activator When added to compost piles, alfalfa provides a source of nitrogen and protein that will help to speed up the composting process. You will notice within a day or two, that after adding alfalfa to your compost pile, the pile heats up rather fast.

Why do farmers plant alfalfa every few years?

Biologists have determined that 28% of California’s wildlife use alfalfa for nesting, feeding, or cover. Even partial-season irrigation during drought can assist wildlife in survive a drought period by using alfalfa as habitat.

Is alfalfa good for the environment?

The long alfalfa stand life also gives the soil a chance to rest from frequent field crop rotations, helps provide nitrogen for subsequent crops and improves soil tilth. Alfalfa is an insectary. Alfalfa also hosts a diversity of insects, many of which are beneficial, such as lady beetles and parasitoid wasps.

How much does it cost to plant 1 acre of alfalfa?

The establishment cost is the sum of cash costs for land preparation, planting, and cash overhead for establishing the alfalfa. The Total Cash Cost shown in Table 1 represents the establishment cost per acre. For this study, the cost is $966 per acre or $48,300 for the 50 acres.

What is alfalfa worth?

The start of 2020 saw the average U.S. price for alfalfa drop $4 per ton from December. The latest USDA Agricultural Prices report pegged alfalfa at $171 per ton, which was $8 per ton lower than one year ago.


Where does alfalfa come from?

Alfalfa ( Medicago sativa) is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region. It is grown as a forage crop, either for fresh produce or for hay. The crop is grown under a wide range of climates where average daily temperature during the growing period is above 5°C. The optimum temperature for growth is about 25°C and growth decreases sharply when temperatures are above 30°C and below l0°C. In warm climates the production is higher under dry as compared to humid conditions. Alfalfa can be used as an important break crop in the rotation and most crops can follow alfalfa with the exception of certain root crops such as sugarbeet, because of the high amount of root residue left in the soil.

What is the fertilizer needed for Alfalfa?

Fertilizer requirements vary with production level and are 55 to 65 kg/ha P and 75 to 100 kg/ha K. (Fertilizer requirements (kg nutrient/ha) of high-producing varieties under irrigation; accurate amounts are to be obtained from local research results or to be determined by experiments, soil testing and plant analysis and evaluation of economic conditions. Conversion: 1 kg P = 2.4 kg P2O51 kg K = 1.2 kg K2O.) Alfalfa is capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen which meets its requirements for high yields. However, a starter of approximately 40 kg N is beneficial for good, early growth.

How deep does Alfalfa root?

Alfalfa has a deep rooting system extending up to 3 m in deep soils. The maximum root depth is reached after the first year. The crop can draw water from great soil depth and little response to irrigation has been shown with groundwater tables at 2 m or higher. Normally, when the crop is fully grown, 100 percent of the water is extracted from the first 1 to 2 m soil depth (D = 1-2 m). When maximum evapotranspiration (ETm) is 5 to 6 mm/day, about 50 percent of the total available soil water can be depleted before the uptake of water from the soil affects crop evapotranspiration (or p = 0. 5). After cutting full cover is reached in 12 to 20 days depending on temperature, and peak ETm is reached soon after.

Why is alfalfa drought resistant?

The ‘drought tolerance’ of alfalfa, sometimes claimed during periods of low water requirements, appears to be due to its extensive rooting system which enables the crop to draw water from a large soil volume.

How much water does alfalfa need?

Crop water requirements (ETm) are between 800 and 1600 mm/growing period depending on climate and length of growing period. The variation in water requirements in each cutting interval for alfalfa is similar to that during the total growing period from sowing to harvest for other crops. The kc value is about 0.4 just after cutting, increasing to 1.05 to l.2 just prior to the next cutting with a mean value of 0.85 to 1.05. For seed production, the kc value is equal to 1.05 to 1.2 during full cover until the middle of flowering, after which the kc value is reduced sharply.

How long does it take for alfalfa to grow?

Alfalfa is a perennial crop and produces its highest yields during the second year of growth. In climates with mild winters, alfalfa is grown for 3 to 4 years continuously, but in continental climates with cold winters it is grown for 6 to 9 years, with a dormant period in winter. The crop is also grown as a short season annual crop. Following seeding, the crop takes about 3 months to establish. Number of cuts varies with climate and ranges between 2 and 12 per growing season. Also, yield per cut for a given location varies over the year due to climatic differences.

Is alfalfa a forage crop?

Water use by the crop in relation to its production is high when compared to other forage crops such as forage maize, and when economic conditions permit alfalfa is replaced by maize as a forage crop.

Where is alfalfa grown?

It is grown from the frozen plains of Southern Canada and Eastern China to the mild climates of Chile’s Central Valley to the searing deserts of Mexico and North and South Africa. It is grown as a highly managed cash crop in irrigated regions, such as California (Figure 5) but also as a pasture crop for horses and cattle in midsouthern states, and millions of hectares are grown in Argentina in grazing dairy, beef, and sheep operations. Alfalfa is often the most desired forage for dairy production – it is no accident that the primary alfalfa production regions in the United States correspond with areas of high alfalfa acreage, such as Wisconsin, California, and Idaho.

How often is alfalfa harvested?

This botanical feature enables alfalfa to be harvested multiple times per year for many years. Alfalfa is typically harvested 3–4 times per year but up to 12 times per year in the desert environments of Arizona, Mexico, and California ( Putnam et al., 2008a,b ).

When to use electric fencing for pasture?

Incorporate a flexible, rotational stocking strategy beginning in the second season of growth. Use electric fencing for easy-adjustment of pasture size which can control grazing intensity.

Does alfalfa have a lower Zn requirement than other crops?

Their work caused them to conclude that alfalfa has a lower Zn requirement than do other crops. The range for Zn sufficiency in alfalfa is reported to be 21 to 70 mg kg −1 in the top 7.5 cm of growth when sampled prior to initial flowering ( Ohio State University, 1972; Mills and Jones, 1996 ).

Does alfalfa have zinc?

Zinc. Alfalfa is capable of absorbing zinc (Zn) from soils considered to be Zn deficient for other crops (Brown et al., 1964). Thus, Zn deficiency has rarely been reported in alfalfa or clover ( Nelson and Barber, 1964 ).

What is the yellowing bug on alfalfa?

On alfalfa, the symptoms are similar to those induced by tarnished plant bug, Lygus lineolaris (Palisot de Beauvois), but not as severe ( Grafius and Morrow, 1982 ), and also resemble the yellowing induced by potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae (Harris) (Radcliffe and Barnes, 1970 ).

How much alfalfa is grown under irrigation?

Alfalfa often requires irrigation for maximum yield and therefore approximately 35% of US alfalfa is produced under irrigation. Alfalfa requires significant water annually due to its high yield and long growing season, but it is among the most water-use efficient crops grown under irrigation ( Putnam, 2012 ).

Is alfalfa a good habitat for wildlife?

While alfalfa provides a great habitatfor wildlife ‘as is’, some farm familiesare taking extra steps to help it along .Jeff and Sharon Mancebo of Dos Palos,California, and their son Dustin aredoing just that, taking a leading role inhelping to ensure the diversity of wildbirds on their ranch.

Is Alfalfa a host to arthropods?

Alfalfa is host to a wide diversityof arthropods including manybeneficial ones that keep damag-ing insect pests in check andprevent damage to cropsand neighboring vegetation.Pictured top to bottom: Parasiticwasp stinging an aphid; Lady-bird beetle; Big-Eyed Bug;immature Lacewing larvaconsuming an aphid.

Do barn owls eat alfalfa?

Barn owls feed almost exclusivelyon rodents. They use alfalfa signifi-cantly for feeding when their nests arelocated near alfalfa fields. Growers liketo see barn owls on their farms sincerodents can significantly harm alfalfafields if populations go unchecked.

Does alfalfa absorb nitrates?

Nitrate (NO3) is highlysoluble, and moves with rainwater orirrigation water, and can contaminategroundwater, wells, streams, or estuar-ies. Nitrates can cause health problemsin humans and animals, and adverselyaffect ecosystems. These problems maybe prevented or alleviated using alfalfa.Alfalfa’s ability to ‘scrounge’ nitrateis partially due to its ability to extractwater. Alfalfa recovers most of thewater in the root zone, and since mostof the nitrate is dissolved in the soilwater, the plant intercepts it. Secondly,alfalfa has an outstanding ability toabsorb nitrate from the soil solution.Recent field research on a sandy soil inMinnesota showed that alfalfa reducedthe nitrateconcentration of waterflowing through the root zone from 25of soil and penetrated to the water tableat 15 feet on a sandy loam soil in theImperial Valley of California. Morerecent soil coring and isotope labelingexperiments confirm the activity ofalfalfa roots deep in the soil. This deepvigorous root system prevents nitratesor other compounds from leaching.Most annual plants, like corn, are activein only a shallow portion of the rootzone (see page 9), and their rootsystems require several months toreestablish each year.

What is Alfalfa used for?

Alfalfa ( Medicago sativa) is a perennial plant belonging to the Fabaceae family that has long been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of health conditions. It has a sweet, bitter, grassy flavor when consumed fresh in the form of sprouts.

How long does alfalfa extract help with diabetes?

A 2015 study published in Interventional Medicine and Applied Science reported that rats with chemically-induced diabetes experienced a reduction in blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol after receiving an alfalfa extract for 21 days.

Is alfalfa sprouts safe?

Alfalfa sprouts are considered safe and nutritious but may cause side effects in some people. Due to its high fiber content, consuming raw alfalfa can cause gas, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea.

Is alfalfa good for arthritis?

Alfalfa is, in fact, one of the more popular ingredients used in herbal arthritis remedies. To date, these benefits remain largely unproven. With rheumatoid arthritis particularly, the underlying cause of inflammation is autoimmune (meaning the body’s own immune cells attack healthy joints).

Does Alfalfa stimulate breast milk production?

Breast Milk Production. Alfalfa is regarded as a plant-based galactagogue, meaning it can stimulate breast milk production. Alfalfa is, in fact, one of the most popular traditional medicines used as a galactagogue alongside black seed ( Nigella sativa) and fenugreek ( Trigonella foenum-graecum) .

Is alfalfa good for PMS?

Alfalfa contains phytoestrogens, plant-based hormones that mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen. Herbalists contend alfalfa can be an effective remedy for menstrual disorders such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 7 

Is alfalfa a natural diuretic?

Alternative practitioners believe alfalfa acts as a natural diuretic (“water pill”) and can be used to treat urinary tract disorders, including renal calculi (kidney stones) and urinary tract infections (UTIs). 6 

Where did alfalfa originate?

Alfalfa has a long history in agriculture, with writings about the crop dating back to 1300 B.C. in areas near Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey. The crop is well known for its use as animal feed or as a cover crop in large scale agriculture. But the beautiful purple hued plant is not only beautiful but also provides health benefits to your garden.

What is the hormone in Alfalfa?

Alfalfa contains a hormone called Triacontanol. This hormone is necessary in root growth and photosynthesis and is also a tasty food source for beneficial microorganisms.

What is the hard to reach nutrients taken up by alfalfa roots?

Hard to reach nutrients are taken up by the alfalfa roots for plant growth. When cut down and used for compost or left to decompose on the soil surface , those nutrients are left available to plants otherwise unable to reach so deep.

How deep does Alfalfa grow?

Alfalfa is known for its deep roots that can extend up to 8 feet! This not only adds valuable organic matter to deeper areas of your garden but can help bring nutrients to the soil surface where other roots can benefit.

Can alfalfa be harvested?

Be sure to harvest only the top, above-ground portion of alfalfa to ensure its useful roots remain in the soil . It can also be left as a perennial plant that adds aesthetically pleasing flowers for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Is alfalfa a good garden?

You may think alfalfa would be a poor garden choice because it can use a lot of water, however it is also an extremely efficient user of the water. With its deep and sponge-like roots it actually saves water from leaching and helps the plants around it become more drought tolerant.

Is alfalfa good for microorganisms?

In addition to the root nodules full of nitrogen and the triacontanol hormone loved by microorganisms, alfalfa is full of proteins, amino acids, fiber and sugar among other minerals. The plant provides easy food for microorganisms as it breaks down more quickly than other green waste and is higher in nutrients.

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