Alfalfa: An Important Part of Agriculture’s Future

Picture3One of buzzwords around agriculture in recent years has been “sustainability” – what can farmers do to make their operations more sustainable for the future. Many are looking to incorporate cover crops, change up their continuous cropping rotations, or even add livestock where they previously were not used before. But one thing that is often overlooked is the benefit of adding a crop like alfalfa, and how it can improve your on-farm sustainability.

Alfalfa’s impact on soil health has been widely studied for many years. Because it is a perennial, fields will require less tillage throughout the stand lifetime, similar to perennial pastures. This decreased tillage often improves soil aggregation and organic matter content.  Recent research has found that when alfalfa is included in a short-term rotation with corn and soybeans, the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil significantly increases over a continuous corn and soybean rotation. This increase in soil carbon means that soils can become more resilient to harsh environmental stresses.

Overall, alfalfa has a lot to offer agriculture. It is a great source of nutrition for livestock  and provides many soil benefits that we are just beginning to fully understand. Its perennial growth habit helps provide protection to soils as well as benefical insects and wildlife, and makes fields more resilient to environmental stresses. Including alfalfa in your cropping rotations makes sense for many reasons.   ~ Excerpt from: Emily Meccage, PhD, Forage Genetics International. NAFA News Release Nov. 2019. Read the full release here.