Choosing an Alfalfa Variety Is Like an Election
Dan Wiersma, MS, DuPont Pioneer Alfalfa Business Manager
Choosing an alfalfa variety for your operation is like an election. It can be a challenging task given the many choices in the marketplace. When choosing an alfalfa variety for your farm, it's crucial to have all the necessary information unique to your situation. This is true of most choices in life. For instance, if I could choose my stocks with full information, I would be rich. With a little bit of homework, you can make a well-informed decision.
It takes time to sort out the candidates.
Choosing among potential alfalfa variety candidates may take some work and time. A first step is to determine what kind of package you need, based on your location and soil type, for winter survival and disease or insect resistance.
Disease resistance is somewhat like an insurance policy: You may not need resistance every year but you will likely need it at some point in the life of the alfalfa stand.
Next, look for reliable multiyear data to choose a group of high-yielding, certified varieties. In well-run trials, usually the top 20-25% is likely to be high performing over the long run. University data, along with company-replicated data, are the most reliable sources.
Technology is playing an increasingly important role.
The major breeding companies have invested heavily in alfalfa improvement over the last few decades. This investment is paying off in terms of improved pest resistance leading to reduced risk and higher yields.
Recent breeding of glyphosate-resistant varieties brings another technology that can help you manage weeds and improve establishment success in alfalfa. In the near future, additional technologies will be available in alfalfa including reduced-lignin varieties. Reduced-lignin varieties may help dairy producers and commercial hay growers achieve high quality forage targets, manage weather delays and reduce the number of cuts in a season.
The power of incumbency is strong: candidates are often reelected.
In spite of the availability of a high number of new varieties, choosing a product that has performed well on your farm is often a good choice. Making last-minute decisions during the rush of spring planting to use a new variety is usually not the best plan since you may not have adequate information about how it will perform for you.
When deciding to try a new variety on your farm, the best advice is to limit this new variety to no more than 30-40% of your new seedings. This helps manage risk and gives you an opportunity to evaluate performance of this new product over time.
People often vote on party lines: farmers choose brands and people they trust.
At the end of the day, most people buy seed from the people they know and they buy brands they trust. Partner with a reputable seed company that provides the best genetics and cares enough to help you make those genetics succeed on your farm.
Your alfalfa genetics supplier should do much more than deliver the seed you need. Look for a company that offers trustworthy information, helping you evaluate new products’ potential and identify the right fit for your farm. Turn your seed company representative into a business partner who will help you cut costs and identify value for your forage operation.
Your hopes and dreams for top-tier alfalfa performance starts with choosing the very best genetics available in the industry. Your choice of alfalfa variety will have an impact on your operation for several years so take the time and effort to choose wisely.