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Performance of Alfalfa in Indiana, 1995-1998

Ben Carter, and Keith D. Johnson*
Department of Agronomy
Purdue University,
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150

*Research agronomist, and Professor of Agronomy, respectively.


This bulletin summarizes the results of 1995-1998 yield performance tests of alfalfa variety entries in Indiana. This infor-mation, protected by copyright by the Purdue Research Foundation, is pre-sented under authority granted the Indiana Agricultural Research Programs to conduct performance trials, including interpretation of the data to the public, and does not imply endorsement or recommendation by Purdue University. Permission is granted to reproduce the tables only in their entirety provided the source is referenced and the data are not rearranged, manipulated, or reinterpreted. A conspicuous disclaimer which states "endorsement or recommendation by Purdue University is not implied" must accompany any information reproduced. Additional copies of this and other informative publications are available to Indiana residents from their local Purdue Cooperative Extension Service Office or by writing:

Media Distribution Center
301 South 2nd Street
Lafayette, IN 47905-1092
Phone: (765) 494-6795

This document can be accessed electronically by the following method.
World Wide Web (Mosaic, Netscape, etc.): by pointing to the URL address:

Related Extension Publications:

AY-251 Improving Pastures by Renovation
AY-253 Forage Selection and Seeding Guide for IN
AY-260 Forage Testing-- Why, How, and Where
E-28 Meadow Spittlebug
E-36 Potato Leafhopper on Alfalfa
E-38 Alfalfa Weevil
ID-167 Maximizing the Value of Pasture for Horses
ID-172 Use of Microwave Drying to Determine
Moisture Content in Forage
NCR-547 Alfalfa Management Guide
WS-18 Common Chickweed Control in Alfalfa


We appreciate the help of the personnel of the regional Purdue Agricultural Centers, the Agronomy Research Center, and the many student and temporary workers that have assisted in these studies. We would like to thank Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service for the data used in Appendix Figure 1 and the information included in Appendix Tables 1 &2 of this bulletin.

Questions can be directed to:

Ben Carter Phone (765) 494-5825
Dept. of Agronomy FAX (765) 496-2926
Purdue University
1150 Lilly Hall of Life Sciences
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150
E-mail address bcart@purdue.edu

Experimental Methods

Participating seed companies selected entries to be tested. Seed was sent to Purdue University for planting and evaluation. Commercial entries were obtained through a seed procurement program initiated by recommendation of the North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference. Experimental entries (i.e. experimental generations) from companies sent to Purdue were accepted into yield tests, with data to be clearly marked as from a non-commercial entry.

Between 1995 and 1998, Purdue University successfully established twelve alfalfa performance trials at five locations across Indiana. Test plots were seeded into conventionally prepared seedbeds. Benefin (Balan) herbicide was incorporated into the soil prior to seeding. Seed was inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria and treated with metalaxyl (Apron) fungicide. Plots were seeded with a five-row press-wheel seeder with 6-inch row spacing.

Best management practices were administered to all studies. Optimum pH and fertility were provided and maintained. Alfalfa weevil and potato leafhopper were controlled with the systemic insecticides carbofuran (Furadan), and Bathyorid, or dimethoate (Cygon), respectively. When necessary, control of broadleaf or grass weeds was accomplished with application of 2,4D-B (Butyrac), sethoxydim (Poast) and/or imazethapyr (Pursuit) herbicides, respectively. Winter-annual weeds were controlled on new and established stands with an application of pronamide (Kerb) and metribuzin (Sencor) herbicides, respectively. A flail-type forage harvester was used to harvest plots, generally in late-bud to early-flower stage. Hand samples were utilized for dry matter determination.

Location of Tests

Figure 1 shows the five locations of the reported trials. The following is information about each location.

The Pinney Purdue Agricultural Center is located near Wanatah in Porter and LaPorte Counties (Jon D. Leuck, superintendent). The study seeded in 1995 (Table 2 ) is on a Sebawa loam soil on a 0-2% slope, formed in loamy glacial outwash. The 1997 seeded study (Table 8) is on a Tracy sandy loam on a 0-2% slope and was irrigated when needed.

The Northeast Purdue Agricultural Center is located near Columbia City in Whitley County (Philip C. Walker, superintendent). Boyer sandy loam on a 2-6% slope is the site of the 1996 and 1998 seeded trials (Table 6). The 1998 study was not harvested due to poor weed control.

The Purdue Agronomy Research Center is located near West Lafayette in Tippecanoe County (James J. Beaty III, superintendent). A Drummer silt loam with a 0-2% slope and a 4-5% organic matter content is the site of the 1995 seeded trial (Table 1). The 1996 and 1997 seeded studies (Tables 4 and 7) were conducted on a Xenia silt loam soil with a 0-2% slope. The 1998 seeded trial is on a Rockfield silt loam soil with a 0-2 % slope (Table 10).

The Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center is located near Butlerville in Jennings County (Donald J. Biehle, superintendent). The 1995 and 1997 seeded studies (Tables 3 and 9) are on an Avonburg silt loam soil with a 0-2% slope.

The Feldun-Purdue Agriculture Center is located near Bedford in Lawrence County (Richard M. Huntrods, superintendent). The 1997 & 1998 seeded studies (Tables 5 and 11) are on a Muren silt loam (1-3% slope) soil, formed from loess.

1995-1998 Growing Seasons

(Refer to Appendix Figures 1 and 2 and Appendix Table 2 for more information.)

Early season rain in 1995 resulted in higher yields for the first harvest across the state. Butlerville maintained an adequate amount of soil moisture for the entire growing season. Lack of mid-summer moisture and excessive heat limited growth at West Lafayette, while Wanatah and Columbia City were less affected. Late-summer moisture fell statewide, permitting alfalfa to enter the winter in good shape.

Early season rain in 1996 made it difficult to establish alfalfa stands as well as delaying most of the first cutting across the state. Due to this delay, the two northern sites only reported three harvests for the year. Lack of moisture at West Lafayette caused a decrease in yield towards the end of the season.

The 1997 season progressed with the central going from very wet to dry; and the southern sites becoming very dry. Temperatures remained unusually cool causing the growing degree day totals to be two weeks behind normal. This reduced the growth and lengthened the time between harvests. Due to these factors, the reseeded plots at Bedford and the new seeding at Wanatah was harvested one time. With timely rains in the fall, the studies entered the winter in good condition.

Early season rains in 1998 made establishing alfalfa stands difficult and delayed the first cutting. The late fall permitted the fourth cutting at most locations, except at Bedford where dry conditions in late summer slowed regrowth. With adequate rains and warm temperatures fall growth was excellent.

Presentation and Interpretation of Results

Yields are reported as dry matter yield in tons per acre (T/A). Tables (1-11) summarize results of 1995-1998 alfalfa variety yield trials conducted in Indiana.

In each table, varieties are listed in order of total yield to date. Within a column, varieties differing from each other by less than the respective LSD (least significant difference) were not significantly different (probability > 0.05). Yields followed by an asterisk (*) are not significantly different from the highest value in the column.

The CV (coefficient of variability) is the ratio of the standard deviation to the grand mean. It is used as a measure of the precision of the experiment. Lower CV's indicate lower experimental error in the trial.

Number of harvests within a year is listed at the bottom of each yield column.

Yield as percent of check is listed in the rightmost columns of Tables (1-11). The check variety used was Vernal. Additionally, Tables (1-3) show percent of check in the first two years and in the final two years of production. This can be used as an indirect measure of persistence. Percentages that increase with time or are relatively high in the final years may be an indication of better persistence.

In 1994, the North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference recommended new guidelines to separate entries allocated from commercial and experimental seed sources. Names of entries are preceded by "x" if tested using experimental seed provided by the entrant; remaining entries were obtained from commercial seed lots. Research has shown yield tends to decrease in some breeding lines as seed progresses from a more heterozygous state in experimental generations to the commercially available generation.

Appendix Table 3 contains a listing of commercially available entries, reference number of their marketer(s) (in correspondence with Appendix Table 4), tables where data are found, and characterization information including fall dormancy rating and resistance rating to bacterial wilt, verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, anthracnose, phytophthora root rot, stem nematode, and root-knot nematode.

Appendix Table 4 lists marketer, address, phone number, and contact person as provided by the entrant company and referenced in Appendix Table 3.

How to Use Alfalfa Performance Information

Information presented in the bulletin should be useful in selecting alfalfa seed for forage production in Indiana. Here are some suggestions for using this information.

    1. Select the test location (Figure 1) that best represents your production area.

    2 Within a location, yield tables with the greatest number of years are probably the best predictors of performance.

    3. Utilize the percent of check columns in Tables 1 through 9 to evaluate persistence.

    4. If a particular disease problem is known in your area, check Appendix Table 3 for resistance ratings. Fall dormancy ratings of 2-4 are generally appropriate for northern Indiana and can be as high as 5 in the southern part of the state.

    5. Once your list is narrowed down, contact seed dealers listed in Appendix Table 4 for seed availability and price.

Evaluate each part of your management system to ensure that selected varieties can express their full yield potential. The highest yielding varieties, when mismanaged, may not produce the yield and quality of lower yielding varieties properly managed. Seek to improve your management skills through information from available resources. Helpful publications listed inside the front cover can be obtained from your local Purdue Cooperative Extension Service Office or from the Media Distribution Center.