Shorter Rotations Maximize Alfalfa Profitability

Shorter Alfalfa Rotations Increase Profitability
Most alfalfa growers know that yield per acre declines as stands age. The accumulated impact of harvest stress, pest (disease, insect, nematode) damage, wheel traffic, winter injury, etc. thins stands and weakens existing plants. The net impact is lower yields and often lower forage quality (due to weed encroachment in thin stands) as alfalfa stands get older.
Dr. Dan Undersander at the University of Wisconsin has studied the economic impact of stand age on yield and quality in alfalfa. On average, researchers found an average yield decline of 10% in the third production year (including the establishment year) and 24% in the fourth production year. Yield declines were generally greater east of the Mississippi and slightly less to the west of the Mississippi (unless under irrigation). This strong relationship between advancing stand age and lower yields indicates that growers should consider turning-over (rotating) alfalfa stands faster to ensure that more of their alfalfa acres are in the high yield phase of their stand life at any given time.
An analysis of the economic value of short-term alfalfa rotations (3 years including establishment) vs. more typical alfalfa rotations (5 years including establishment) found that base income for the short (3-year) rotation was slightly less than the 5-year rotation due to higher production costs (more frequent reseeding) and slightly lower yield (because more land was in new seedings at any given time with the shorter rotation). However, increased legume nitrogen credits and higher corn yields (corn following alfalfa yields 10% more than corn following corn) more than offset this difference. In addition, many areas do not require root worm control on first year corn when compared to corn on corn (a savings of $15-$18/acre under the shorter rotation). Finally, the higher quality (weed-free) alfalfa harvested from denser stands under shorter rotations generated significantly greater income ($17/acre) when compared to lower quality alfalfa harvested from thinner, weedier stands under the long rotation.
In summary, this research clearly demonstrated that turning over (rotating) alfalfa stands more quickly (3 years including establishment) provides: higher yields, greater forage quality, reduced pesticide use, higher legume nitrogen credits, increased corn yields, and greater overall per acre profitability.
To obtain a copy of the complete study (“Value of Short Rotations for Alfalfa Profitability”; UW Extension Publication X1092) contact W-L Research at 608-295-3566.
Privacy and Terms

For the 2020 growing seasons, growers must direct any product produced from HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology seed or crops (including hay and hay products) only to US domestic use. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product.

Due to factors outside of Forage Genetics International’s (FGI) control, such as weather, crop production patterns, and other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields or financial performance, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by FGI. Results are based upon FGI controlled tests and field trials and public trials. Results may vary.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Roundup Ready® and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC, used under license by Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtra® is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is enabled with Technology from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.