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Performance of Alfalfa in Indiana, 1996-1999

Ben Carter and Keith D. Johnson*

Department of Agronomy  

*Research agronomist, and Professor of Agronomy, respectively, Department. of Agronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150.

This bulletin summarizes the results of the 1996-1999 yield performance tests for alfalfa variety entries in Indiana. This information, protected by copyright by the Purdue Research Foundation, is presented 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 and related documents can be accessed electronically by using the World Wide Web pointing to the URL address:


We appreciate the help of the personnel of the regional Purdue Agricultural Centers and the Agronomy Research Center, undergraduate research assistant Jeremy Sweeten and temporary workers that have assisted in these studies. We would like to thank the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service for the data used in Appendix Figures (1-3) and the information included in Appendix Tables 1 and 2 of this bulletin.

Questions can be directed to:

Ben Carter
Dept. of Agronomy
Purdue University               
1150 Lilly Hall of Life Sciences
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150  

Phone                     (765) 494-5825
FAX                       (765) 496-2926
E-mail                     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 the 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 1996 and 1999 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, Cyfluthrin (Bathyroid 2) or dimethoate (Cygon).  When necessary, control of broadleaf or grass weeds was accomplished with application of 2,4D-B (Butyrac), sethoxydim (Poast) and/or imazethapyr (Pursuit) herbicides,.  Winter-annual weeds were controlled on new and established stands with an application of pronamide (Kerb) and metribuzin (Sencor) herbicides, when needed.  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 1999 (Table 10 ) is on a Sebawa loam soil on a 0-2% slope, formed in loamy glacial outwash. The 1997 seeded study (Table 5) 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 (Table 3) and 1998 seeded trials (Table 9). The studies were harvested only two times this year due to dry weather conditions.

The Purdue Agronomy Research Center is located near West Lafayette in Tippecanoe County (James J. Beaty III, superintendent.  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 1).

The Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center is located near Butlerville in Jennings County (Donald J. Biehle, superintendent).  The 1997 and 1999 seeded studies (Tables 6 and 11) 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 2 and 8) are on a Muren silt loam (1-3% slope) soil, formed from loess.

Figure 1.  Locations of alfalfa performance trials in Indiana 

1996-1999 Growing Seasons

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

Early season rains 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 yields in the second half of the season.

The 1997 season progressed with central Indiana 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 were 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 a fourth cutting at most locations, except  Bedford where dry conditions in late summer slowed regrowth.  With adequate rains and warm temperatures fall growth was excellent.

The 1999 season started out excellent at most sites, with planting of new plots completed in a timely fashion.  Poor seed bed conditions with excessive rainfall damaged the stand at the Lafayette site enough that it was destroyed and will be re-seeded in the spring of 2000.  After the first harvest, rainfall diminished and later developed into extreme drought at all sites. The water-holding capacity of various soils became a factor in the regrowth of the alfalfa plants.  Do to the differences in soil types and the lack of adequate rainfall, all sites had low harvest numbers.  The shortage of soil moisture has continued through the fall season, thus leaving the plots very dry going into the winter months.  The severity of winter temperatures may be a deciding factor in stand persistence.

Presentation and Interpretation of Results

Yields are reported as dry matter yield in tons per acre (T/A).  Tables (1-11) summarize results of 1996-1999 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, aphanomyces 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 3 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 can be obtained from your local Purdue Cooperative Extension Service Office or from the Media Distribution Center.  

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Send mail to Jerry Schmierer Email: jlschmierer@ucdavis.edu with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 1998 Purdue University Agronomy Extension
Last modified: March 10, 2000