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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 PERFORMANCES TESTS IN 1998

North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station

D.W. Meyer, W.E. Norby, R.O. Ashley, and M. Zarnstorff

The 1997-98 winter was very mild with December, January, and February temperatures averaging 11.9, 5.4, and 16.0oF above normal. Good snow cover when the temperatures were cold protected the alfalfa crowns resulting in little, if any, winter injury.

Forage yield data for alfalfa cultivars and experimental lines tested in North Dakota are presented in the next nine tables. Insect pressure was not a significant yield factor in the first and second harvests at Fargo, some leafhopper burn was noted in the third harvest (an insignificant yield factor), and major leafhopper damage and we believe a nutrient deficiency interacted to reduce fourth harvest yields by about 0.5 tons/acre. Fusarium wilt infected Vernal plots in the 1996 seeding at Fargo, which severely reduced the productivity of Vernal such that other cultivars averaged 24% higher yields (a rarity for the Fargo location). Other seedings at Fargo were not visibly affected. Spring blackstem was severe during the first harvest in all Fargo experiments except the 1998 seeding.

Forage yields on dryland at Fargo were exceptional for the third straight year! Mean forage yields for the third harvest year were in excess of 8 tons/acre, surpassing the previous record yield by more than a ton/acre. The record yields were associated with the earliest (May 26) but highest first-harvest yield in 30 years, and abundant rainfall during May (7.34 inches) and June (6.62 inches) that help produced higher than normal second and third harvests. Almost no rainfall during late July and August, leafhopper problems, and waiting for the killing frost for the last harvest reduced the fourth harvest yield.

Irrigated forage yields at Carrington, ND, were also exceptional averaging 7.2 tons/are on a 1-year-old stand and 6.6 tons/acre on a 3-year-old stand, or about 1.5 and 2.8 tons/acre, respectively, above normal. Diseases were a minor problem, mainly spring blackstem in the first harvest. First-harvest forage yields at Minot and Dickinson were reduced first by drought and then by a killing frost during the first days of June that bleached the alfalfa white. The third harvest at Dickinson is exceptional and was related to July rainfall.

The 1998 North Dakota alfalfa hay crop was estimated October 1 at 3.0 million tons, 22% greater than the 1997 production, by the North Dakota Agricultural Statistical Service. The per acre yield at 2.0 tons is up 8.1% from the previous 5-year average due to above-average rainfall

during the growing season. Alfalfa acreage was estimated at 1.5 million, down 250,000 acres from 1997. Cultivars that yield equal or 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/98data/index.htm under "alfalfa" or from Dr. Dwain Meyer, Plant Sciences Department, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105-5051.


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