New Traits to Make Alfalfa More Digestible

(Jamie) Welcome back to Farm Factor and Dr. Don Miller who explains a new set of traits in alfalfa that makes it more digestible.
(Kyle) Hi this is Kyle Bauer from Alfalfa U. I have the opportunity to visit with Don Miller. He’s with Alforex. They’ve developed a new set of traits in alfalfa that makes it more digestible and a better feed crop for most rumens. Can you explain that to us Don? (Don) We know that as alfalfa matures it deposits more lignin into the tissue and that interferes with animal digestion of that forage. And so what we’ve done on the breeding end is develop an alfalfa that has less lignin deposit in the tissue over time. And so we can actually provide an alfalfa variety that will have less lignin in the tissue and have a wider harvest window for that producer. (Kyle) Yea, because alfalfa we expect to harvest it every 28 days and we normally saw the quality reduced greatly after 28 days. But that isn’t the case now that we have this lower lignin. (Bruce) Now if the producer harvests at 28 days he has a potential of having even higher level of forage quality. But if for some reason, weather delay or whatever, that he has to delay his harvest on that field from say 28 days to 35 days, he still has an alfalfa that is good quality by delaying seven days he still has a decent quality alfalfa hay. (Kyle) And you could possibly get by with one less entire harvest during the year, which would save that much in cost. (Don) Yea, you’ve reduced your equipment costs across that field, and also you’re getting a little bit more tonnage because you’ve had the alfalfa grow from 28 days to 35 days you’re getting about seven days of growth on that alfalfa variety. (Kyle) Now the lignin also allows any forage to stand so when we reduce the amount of lignin in the crop, does that mean that the crop will have trouble standing up? (Don) We’ve reduced the lignin about 7 to 10 percent. That’s enough to give us a really good quality advantage but not so much that we’re worried about lodging in this alfalfa. We’ve been out on the market for over a year with this new alfalfa and we haven’t had any lodging issues. So, it’s not going to be any better or any worse than varieties that we’ve had in past as far as lodging. (Kyle) Now as you looked at having this out, it’s out over a number of acres. (Don) We had it out this last year over 10,000 acres. We’ve had a lot of feedback from farmers that have been using this; they’ve been happy with it. And also we’ve done forage quality tests on a majority of those acres and we’re performing the way we thought we would as far as forage quality by reducing lignin. (Kyle) And there’s also been a quality contest won with the alfalfa already. (Don) Yea, at the World Area Expo this- our Hi-Gest 360 won that quality count category on forage quality and we’re really excited about that. Really seems to be giving us a good product out there. (Kyle) Now you were able to accomplish this the old fashioned way through breeding and not through genetic modification. (Don) Yes, this is conventional plant breeding which means we don’t have to charge a tech fee and so it’s a lot more economical for that producer to buy that alfalfa seed now cause it’s conventional plant breeding. And we didn’t have to go through all the additional costs of a GMO development. (Kyle) We’re visiting with Don Miller. He’s with Alforex. This is Kyle Bauer reporting from Alfalfa U. at Dodge City, Kansas.
(Jamie) Thanks for joining us. I’m your host Jamie Bloom and I hope you enjoyed today’s show. See you next week on Farm Factor–we’re here every Tuesday on AGam in Kansas.

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