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Fine Stem Alfalfa Varieties?

The Questions

I have a producer in Lawrence County that would like to plant some fine stemmed alfalfa.  How can I identify which varieties fit into this category.

My Answers

I am not aware of any current released commercial variety studies that compare this trait and I don't think it is prudent to make this a top 5 reason to select a specific variety.  'Vernal' is finer stemmed than recent releases, but I wouldn't seed it as it is lower yielding and more prone to disease issues. Dry matter yield remains a key selection criterion.  You need high-yielding alfalfa to have some degree of structure (stem diameter) to support a greater mass of leaves.

Other factors besides genetics will influence stem diameter.  Stem diameter can be reduced with a higher population of plants.  I am sending a research paper that was done at Purdue that should be shared with the producer.  Lower fertility and lack of potato leafhopper will increase leaf:stem ratio, but yield is so impacted so dramatically that good fertility and control of the pest are best management practices.

The USDA group in Minnesota is developing varieties with large crowns and stems for the purpose of herbaceous biomass to be used for alternative energy purposes.

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Keith Johnson
Professor of Agronomy and Forage Crops Specialist
1150 Lilly Hall of Life Sciences
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150
phone: 765-494-4800
fax: 765-496-2926



For more forage information contact Dr. Keith Johnson: johnsonk@purdue.edu

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