Make Sure Your Alfalfa Fits

DuPont Pioneer offers varieties to meet specific challenges for every growing region.

Alfalfa, once considered a "one-size-fits-all" crop, now comes in varieties that feature different strengths to meet the needs of different growing environments.  Pioneer offers a wide range of varieties so growers can select the right product for the right acre.

Forage experts at DuPont Pioneer suggest growers review individual production challenges and plant the variety or varieties that provide the best solutions. The good news is that plenty of options are available for a range of growing environments.

Pioneer focuses on 5 categories of varieties. Each group brings its own specific grower benefit. The groups are:

  1. Muscle - high yielding and very winterhardy
  2. Forage quality
  3. Western-adapted varieties
  4. Leafhopper resistant
  5. Lodging resistant

"Advances in alfalfa breeding have expanded grower options," says Mark Smith, DuPont Pioneer alfalfa research scientist. "Growers in all alfalfa growing regions have several varieties to fit their individual needs."

The muscle group contains the more "traditional" varieties, the highest-yielding and most winterhardy. In addition, today's alfalfa varieties offer traits to defend against yield-threatening diseases such as Aphanomyces Race 2 and pests such as nematodes. Pioneer varieties are also available in several of the above categories, with Genuity® Roundup Ready® technology.

Breakout by Geography

Following is a breakout by geography of some of the top varieties to meet challenges that are common in each area:

Dairy Crescent (Eastern U.S. through Minnesota and Eastern half of the Dakotas, including Eastern Canada)

55V50 - This muscle variety consistently yields well and has shown strong winterhardiness in difficult winter conditions. It's highly resistant to Aphanomyces races 1 and 2, Fusarium wilt and anthracnose. Pioneer scores alfalfa on a disease resistance index (DRI) with 35 being the highest achievable score. 55V50 has a DRI of 34.

55Q27 - This variety is part of the forage quality group, and it packs the yield of a muscle variety. That's a strong combination. For growers looking to maximize yield and quality, this variety is a solid choice for its relative forage quality (RFQ). RFQ is a formula from the University of Wisconsin to measure the total digestible nutrients.  For growers raising alfalfa to sell to dairy producers or for dairy producers looking to grow their own feed, this variety offers nutritional benefits. 55Q27 also scores a strong 34 on the DRI scale.

55H94 - If you want to avoid spraying for leafhopper, this variety offers protection against the pest. In the Eastern portion of the U.S. where leafhopper is a challenge almost every year, this variety is a prudent option. With a DRI of 34, 55H94 is resistant to a host of other diseases and insect pressures. 

54Q14 & 54V13 - These products stand out for their strong lodging tolerance and can stand when other varieties go down in adverse weather conditions. Heavy rains near maturity often cause the alfalfa canopy to lodge. Smith notes avoiding just 1 lodging event per year can save a half ton of yield or more. This strong lodging-resistance trait can allow the alfalfa stand to dry faster following a rain, leading to easier harvest.

Western States

55Q27 - This broadly adapted high performance variety is a good fit for the West too. It brings muscle high yield in a high forage quality variety and is highly resistant to nematodes. 55Q27 performs particularly well in the Intermountain Northwest, where stem nematode pressure is high. 55Q27 scores a strong 34 on the DRI scale.

Semi and Nondormant (CA through parts of AZ, NM and TX)

56S82 - A high-yielding variety, 56S82 offers strong resistance to aphids, stem nematodes, and both southern and northern root knot nematodes. This variety was the first semi-dormant variety on the market to have resistance to Aphanomyces.

57Q53 - A high-yielding, high quality seven dormancy variety, 57Q53 is resistant to stem nematode and phytopthora, with high resistance to Anthracnose, Verticillium and Fusarium wilts, and pea aphids.


In addition to most of the varieties listed above, the following are also available in Canada:

54Q32 - For growers looking to maximize yield and quality, this variety is a solid choice with a solid performance record. For growers raising alfalfa to sell to dairy producers or for dairy producers looking to grow their own feed, this variety offers nutritional benefits. The DRI is 32 for this variety. It offers high resistance to Fusarium wilt, anthracnose, Phytophthora and Aphanomyces Race 1.

53V52 - An early fall-dormant variety. 53V52 is part of the muscle group, and merits a 33 score on the DRI. 53V52 was one of the first varieties on the market highly resistant to both Aphanomyces races 1 and 2 and Phytophthora. 53V52 has a very strong overall root rot resistance package.

Genuity® Roundup Ready® (US only)

For 2015, Pioneer is offering 5 alfalfa varieties with Genuity® Roundup Ready® technology. These varieties enable the use of Roundup® herbicide as an additional option for weed control. University trial results show the effective weed control obtained with Roundup herbicide can add an average 1/2 ton of yield during the stand establishment year.

55VR06 (RR) - Our new widely adapted highest-yielding GEN RR variety, late fall dormancy 55VR06 features high yield, very good winterhardiness and a very good overall disease resistance package including Aphanomyces resistance to races 1 and 2.

54QR04 (RR) - A high-yielding, medium fall dormancy variety with excellent forage quality. Ideal for producers who demand high-quality, weed-free forage, 54QR04 offers excellent performance in a four- to five-cut system. Very good winterhardiness and disease resistance for this widely adapted variety.  Excellent resistance to root rot pathogens such as Phytophthora and Aphanomyces
(Race 1).

55VR05 (RR) - A high-yielding Western-adapted variety, late fall dormancy with excellent forage yield potential.  Very good winterhardiness and excellent disease resistance including high resistance to stem nematode makes this variety suitable for Western growing regions where high resistance to stem nematode is desired.

54VR03 (RR) - This variety features good winterhardiness and high forage quality.  54VR03 is suitable for 4- to 5-cut systems and high-yield environments.

53VR03 (RR) - A very winterhardy early fall dormant muscle variety, it's adapted for Northern states. This variety is available in Wyoming, Montana and the western Dakotas.  It has a strong disease resistance package, including Phytophthora resistance.

Help With Decisions

Contact your local Pioneer sales professional for additional help on deciding what products best fit your growing your conditions. Pioneer provides a wide array of choices to fit individual circumstances. "Many competitors offer limited options or a limited number of alfalfa varieties," Smith points out. "Pioneer offers several varieties for each growing environment. The varieties highlighted here are the core of the Pioneer alfalfa lineup."

The key is to know your soils and main pests, then manage your alfalfa operation accordingly, he says. Visit to learn more about Pioneer alfalfa varieties or contact your local Pioneer sales professional.

Dr. Mark Smith is a DuPont Pioneer alfalfa research scientist at Arlington, Wisconsin. His alfalfa variety development career spans nearly three decades with DuPont Pioneer, including alfalfa research locations in Connell, Washington and Arlington, Wisconsin.  Dr. Smith currently manages the Wisconsin location.




Genuity® and Roundup Ready® are registered trademarks used under license from Monsanto Company.


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