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Expanded Alfalfa Seed Options Help Growers Match Field Conditions


Pioneer Hi-Bred provides growers improved protection through trait selection

Alfalfa, once considered a “one size fits all” crop, now has a vast range of varieties growers can choose from to select the right product for the right acre. Experts at Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, say growers should review production challenges and plant the variety that provides the best protection.

Today’s alfalfa varieties offer traits to defend the crop against yield-threatening diseases such as Aphanomyces Race 2 and pests like nematodes.

“In recent years, alfalfa variety options have really expanded,” says David Miller, director of Pioneer alfalfa breeding. “Growers now have the option to choose from a complete lineup of varieties that are tailored to various production concerns – including disease and pest tolerance"

In the past, seed companies offered growers only a few varieties. With the latest research and development tools, specific traits can be selected and incorporated into the newest products to provide growers with an array of choices to meet their needs.

“Pioneer focuses on five main categories of varieties,” says Miller. “Each group has specific characteristics that can benefit growers.”

Pioneer’s five groups consist of the muscle, forage quality, leafhopper resistant, lodging resistant and western-adapted varieties. The muscle group is the longstanding, traditional, highest-yielding and most winterhardy varieties. These varieties also have disease-resistance packages that allow the crop to be broadly adapted across several environments.

“Pioneer® brand 55V48 is a great example of a muscle variety,” says Miller. “This is a breakthrough 5 dormant, very winterhardy variety adapted for the Midwest, Dairy Crescent and Canada.”

Varieties in the forage quality group tend to be higher in forage quality by 10 to 15 relative forage quality (RFQ) points when compared to other variety groups.

“All varieties can provide high-quality forage with proper harvest management,” says Miller. “The varieties in this particular group prove to be higher in relative forage quality when harvested all together.”

In combination with the muscle variety, these varieties would allow growers to manage a harvest window and maturity window, similar to planting different relative maturities in corn or groups in soybeans.

The next category, the leafhopper-resistance varieties, yield well under potato leafhopper pressure.

“University data has shown an advantage of planting this trait compared to sprayed conventional varieties in areas where potato leafhoppers cause significant damage in two to three cuts per year,” says Miller. “The economic benefits outweigh the alternative risk management strategies.”

Lodging is a concern for some growers. Lodging-resistant varieties will stand longer and under a wider range of conditions compared to other varieties. Lodging-resistant alfalfas allow growers to cut closer, have less ash in their feed because it’s not run down to the ground, and increase harvestable yield and quality.

“The final group is Pioneer’s western-adapted group,” says Miller. This group was developed for specific needs, including nematode, aphid and root rot resistance and other challenges growers might see in the western U.S. Pioneer brand 54V09 has performed exceptionally well in these areas and was developed for a regrowth time to suit western hay production, which is important to growers looking to capture the most from their alfalfa crop.”

A disease that seems to be making its way across high-producing alfalfa areas, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, is Aphanomyces root rot. Currently, Pioneer has a product that is highly resistant to Aphanomyces Race 2. This fungal disease impacts both yield and stand longevity.

“Alfalfa planting season is right around the corner,” says Miller. “It is important for a grower to review their production challenges then choose a variety based on that specific need"

Alfalfa has an industry standard for rating resistance levels to diseases and pests. To learn more about Pioneer brand alfalfa resistance levels or alfalfa varieties best suited for your area, contact your local Pioneer sales professional or visit


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