Research findings on reduced-lignin alfalfa featured at MSU Agriculture Innovation Day

Research findings from a six-state study on reduced-lignin alfalfa will be featured at Michigan State University Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Forages and the Future.

Photo credit: Mark Sulc, OSU

Photo credit: Mark Sulc, OSU

Research findings from a six-state study on reduced-lignin alfalfa will be featured at Michigan State University Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Forages and the Future. The event will be held from 12:30 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2017, at the Lake City Research Center in Lake City, Michigan.

Mark Sulc is a professor and Extension forage specialist at the Ohio State University. He will discuss factors affecting alfalfa quality and review three years of findings from the study he led on the performance of a new reduced-lignin variety of alfalfa. The variety is genetically modified to be easier for livestock to digest and to allow for longer intervals between cuttings without reducing the quantity or quality of the crop.

The variety was released in extremely limited quantities in 2016 and made available more widely for the 2017 growing season. It was designed to produce increased yields from less frequent harvests, without the typical loss of forage quality.

Kim Cassida, a Michigan State University Extension forage specialist, was a key member of the research team. She said one of the team’s goals was to find out how many cuttings producers could eliminate in a growing season without reducing crop quality or yield.

“Conventional alfalfa is cut every 28 days for the highest quality,” Cassida said. “That means in southern Michigan you can get four to five cuttings during the growing season.

With reduced-lignin alfalfa, Cassidanoted, “If you extend that cutting interval by 7 to 10 days, you get one less cut in, but the alfalfa continues to grow during those ten days. So you can theoretically end up with the same yield and quality while reducing your harvest expenses by one cutting.”

High-quality traits create a wider harvest window for dairy-quality forage and rain delays are less harmful. Reduced-lignin varieties can make growing alfalfa easier and more economical for producers and allow them to increase the acreage in rotation and diversify their cropping systems. Making alfalfa more digestible for dairy cows can also mean increased milk production and profitability.

The reduced-lignin alfalfa research presentation is just part of all-day program, MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Forages and the Future that runs from 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 24.  There will be numerous opportunities to learn about the latest research on silage production, double cropping, baleage and grass-fed beef, among other topics.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day is an annual event focusing on in-depth education on critical topics. The event rotates to various locations throughout the state to give farmers access to experts who can help them improve their businesses while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms. To learn more about the event and the sessions being offered, visit http://msue.msu.edu/msuaginnovationday. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required.

For more than 150 years, the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has sought to enhance the quality of life for the people of Michigan and the world by offering internationally acclaimed scholarship, research and outreach. CANR boasts an alumni network of more than 65,000 people and tackles the world’s most pressing challenges in the areas of food, energy and the environment. For more information, visit http://www.canr.msu.edu.

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