Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, April 28, 1984, Image 136

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    PB—Lancaster Farming, Saturday, April 28,1984
DE KALB, 11. - Forage
producers who base alfalfa variety
selection on initial cost per pound
of seed could be making a mistake
they’ll have to live with for years.
Merlin Eichstadt, regional
agronomist for Dekalb-Pfizer
Genetics, says basing a long-term
decision on the relatively low input
cost of seed could result in
economic losses of several hun
dred dollars over a typical four
year lifespan of an alfalfa crop.
Eichstadt points to a study
showing that although seed of one
proprietary alfalfa variety cost
nearly |3 per pound vs. $1.92 per
pound for a public variety, net
economic return was nearly 20
tunes higher per acre than the
initial difference in seed cost.
Other studies from several
states have shown that high
quality alfalfa yields of more than
10 tons per acre per year are within
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reach for producers who manage
the crop with as much intensity as
they do for other segments of their
fanning.
Eichstadt suggests producers
consider the following factors
when choosing an alfalfa variety:
Fast start: Selecting a variety
that establishes a strong foothold
early, thereby decreasing yield
reducing weed competition is
important, Eichstadt notes,
i Research shows the difference in
yields after first-year seeding
could be as much as 50 percent.
Winterhardiness: Once
established, it’s important for the
variety to withstand extreme
temperature variations ex
perienced throughout much of the
country’s major alfalfa-producing
regions.
Tests reveal that plant death loss
during the winter can amount to up
to 90 percent of the stand. That
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Alfalfa selection involves more than cost
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means lower yields per acre and
decreased longevity.
One test conducted over four
seasons in Minnesota indicated a
four-ton-per-acre yield difference,
due in part to different win
derhardiness among varieties.
Longevity: Wmterhardiness and
disease resistance help to deter
mine the life of the stand. These
factors must be bred into a variety.
Eichstadt says varieties differ in
their ability to maintain high
yields over the years. In tests
conducted in Pennsylvania, some
varieties showed up to 50 percent
yield reduction over four years. A
few lost very little yield.
Irngation/dryland per
formance: During the life of an
alfalfa stand, growing conditions
may vary from ample rainfall to
drought. Producers should review
alfalfa variety performance under
variable moisture conditions like
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irrigated and dryland studies.
Some* varieties do well under
dryland or ample moisture con
ditions, but not both. A few of the
best varieties like Dekalb Brand
120 do well in all growing con
ditions.
Fast regrowth: Many varieties
produce high yields from the first
cutting but show marked
decreased as the season wears on.
They cannot recover from an
aggressive management schedule
says the Dekalb-Pfizer
agronomist.
Producers should look for a
variety with the potential to
quickly develop a good, leafy
canopy which turns the sun’s
energy into forage while battling
weed pressure. Producers should
he able to harvest more cuttings
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and tonnage from varieties with
fast regrowth.
Crude protein content: Eichstadt
says producers must ultimately
consider a variety’s potential as a
protein source for livestock.
Research in Wisconsin has
shown the difference in crude
protein levels produced by several
alfalfa varieties to be worth as
much as $l5O per acre per year.
One variety, Dekalb Brand 120,
offered $461 worth of protein per
acre over three cuttings.
These selection factors must be
combined with ihtensive
management to produce top yields
of high-quality forage, Eichstadt
emphasizes. But, he adds, the
plant genetic potential exists for
those producers who are willing to
do so.
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