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NDSU Main Station * North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station
315 Morrill, NDSU Fargo, ND 58105, Voice: (701) 231-7655 fax: (701) 231-8520


NORTH DAKOTA ALFALFA PERFORMANCE TESTS IN 2001
North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station
D.W. Meyer, W.E. Norby, and J.D. Berdahl

The 2000-01 winter was very cold in December and February, but nearly 9oF above normal during January. March temperature was slightly below normal due to a cold period (>15oF below normal) during late March. Snow cover had disappeared and the alfalfa had about a one-inch growth initiated prior to this cold snap. We believe this cold snap caused the greatest differential winter injury/kill between the 3- and 4-cut systems in the past 30 years at Fargo. Two reps of the 1998 seeding were nearly 100% winter killed and significant winter injury occurred in the 1999 seeding and the remaining two reps of the 1998 seeding. Temperatures during the growing season were near normal.

Rainfall was 3.6 inches or 19% above normal for the alfalfa growing season (October 2000-September 2001). In addition, September 2000 rainfall was 3.64 inches above normal, so adequate precipitation occurred to allow alfalfa productivity to reach its potential. Rainfall during the growing season was well distributed with the exception of late August. But the abundant soil water carried the alfalfa through this short period with no apparent effects.

Forage yield data for alfalfa cultivars and experimental lines tested in North Dakota are presented in the next 10 pages. Diseases were not a significant problem in 2001, but all varietal trials were sprayed with Warrior for armyworm infestations (the worst in more than 30 years). Alfalfa blotch leafminer was not a problem in 2001 similar to 2000.

Forage yields of uninjured alfalfa at Fargo were exceptional for the sixth straight year. Forage yields averaged 8.48 tons/acre in the 2000 seeding, the highest ever at Fargo. Forage yields of the 1999 seeding, however, averaged only 5.11 tons/acre following significant winter injury. Three-year average yields in the 1998 seeding were not as great as the 1997 seeding, but were still nearly 4 tons/acre higher than normal. Forage yields at Carrington averaged 6.94 tons/acre in the 1999 seeding, significantly above the long-term average of 4.8 tons/acre for a 2-year-old stand. Seeding-year forage yields averaged 3.47 tons/acre at Fargo and 3.14 tons/acre at Carrington, about average for each location.

John Berdahl at the Northern Great Plains Research Lab at Mandan, ND, is evaluating persistence and 1-cut forage yields of several entries. Data from two locations are included.

Varietal response to varying management regimes is compared in the 1995 seeding. Data to date indicates a very strong variety by management interaction, which suggests that relative ranking of varieties in any given variety test applies only under the management system used.

The 2001 North Dakota alfalfa hay crop was estimated November 1 at 3.1 million tons, 4.2% less than 2000, by the North Dakota Agricultural Statistical Service. The per acre yield at 2.0 tons is down from the record high of 2.4 tons/acre in 2000, but significantly above the long-term average. Alfalfa acreage was estimated at 1.55 million, about the same the past 3 years. Persistent cultivars that yield greater than Vernal are recommended for hay production in North Dakota.

These data are available on the web at http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/fargo/01data/alfalfa.htm or from Dr. Dwain Meyer, Plant Sciences Department, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105-5051.


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