Advancements in alfalfa technology | Living the Country Life

Advancements in alfalfa technology

New advancements in seed technologies maximize alfalfa use

Radio interview source: Randy Welch, Forage Agronomist, Croplangenetics

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

New technologies have emerged for production crops and machinery, but not as much with forages. Randy Welch is a seed company alfalfa and forage agronomist. He says a recent advancement in alfalfa helps producers fight weeds. He says a gene is put in the plant that makes it tolerant to glyphosate, a common ingredient found in many commercial herbicides.

"So what the plant will do is it basically metabolizes, or breaks down the Round-Up, or glyphosate, that's applied to that plant. And then when that material is applied, it basically detoxifies," Welch says. "The neat thing about it is, the alfalfa plant breaks the glyphosate down, but the weeds that we spray that are in with the desirable forage are killed."

Welch says plant genetics' research has identified a new trait that changes the structure of how alfalfa produces lignin. Lignin is like wood fiber, a non-digestible part of the plant.

"If you think about feeding a tree to a cow, which sounds kind of silly why would someone do that?" Welch says. "But when you feed alfalfa that's very high in lignin content, that portion of that fiber is non-digestible, and it basically passes out the animal's waste.The good thing about what's coming to market, is the fact that we can now take acres of land that are very expensive, and we can produce more forage that is digestible on that acre of land."

Alfalfa has one of the highest crude protein contents among forage crops, but when stored and fed as silage, it is quickly degraded by microorganisms in the animal's rumen. Welch says up-and-coming forage technology includes a bypass protein trait, which would increase protein utilization of the rumen.

Learn more from the USDA.


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