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.


Kentucky Alfalfa and Stored Forages Conference – Elizabethtown, KY. Feb. 20

The new Hardin county Extension Office will be hosting the 39th Kentucky Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conference.  Topics include:

  • Managing Alfalfa Nutrient Uptake
  • Don’t Let Insects Eat Your Alfalfa Profit
  • Fertilizing Profitable High Yield Alfalfa
  • Getting the Upper Hand on Alfalfa & Grass Diseases
  • Updates on an Online Alfalfa Management Tool
  • What’s New in Alfalfa Weed Control
  • Advances in Hay Mechanization
  • Making a Profit with a Cash Hay Operation

Early registration is just $30. Find the full agenda and register here. For paper registration, mail a check with your name and address to: Ray Smith, N-222E Ag. Science Center North, Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0091.PS - alfalfaDS7_0290


Forage Timely Tips: February

  • Continue grazing stockpiled tall fescue if available.
  • Assess grass stands. If thin, consider frost seeding clover (6-8 lb/A red + 1-2 lb/A ladino white clover).
  • On pastures with lower fertility, consider adding 10-15 lb/A annual lespedeza with the clover seed.
  • Consider applying nitrogen at first green-up to promote early growth.
  • Sign up for shared use drills for spring renovation.
  • Service and calibrate no-till drills.
  • Apply lime and fertilizer according to soil test.


Strategically Managing Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is the most important cool-season grass in Kentucky.  In most unimproved pastures, tall fescue is infected with a fungal endophyte that imparts tolerance to grazing and environmental stresses.  The endophyte improves persistence in low input grazing systems, but it also results in the production of alkaloids that cause tall fescue toxicosis.  Worse case symptoms include: fescue foot, fat necrosis, and loss of ear tips and tall switches.  However, the symptoms that are not readily observed are often the costliest.  These include vasoconstriction, elevated body temperature, lower forage intake, lower milk production, lower growth rates and weaning weights, compromised immune system, and lower conception/calving rates. Strategically manage tall fescue by:

  • Replacing of Toxic Stands
  • Managing Existing Tall Fescue Stands
  • Dilution with other forages
  • Clipping seadheads
  • Strategic avoidance
  • Using local animal genetics
  • Supplement tall fescue pastures

While management strategies can mitigate impacts, the only way to completely eliminate the harmful effects of endophyte on livestock is to replace infected stands with other forages or novel endophyte tall fescue. ~ Dr. Chris Teutsch, Cow Country News. DSC_0094


Novel Tall Fescue Renovation Workshop back in Lexington, March 19th

Toxic tall fescue reduces livestock weight gains and lowers reproductive performance.  This one day workshop will give you the tools and information needed to improve your management of toxic tall fescue or to remove it and replace it with novel endophyte varieties. Speakers include local producers, company representatives and extension specialists from across the country. Topics include: Fescue toxicosis, Economics, Testing, Establishment, Management, Products, and Incentives. Registration includes all materials, refreshments, and lunch. Early registration ends March 11th. Space is limited. Register today here or email us at



The Late Ms. Ghanimat Azhdari

Picture1The Secretariat of the National Organizing Committee for the Joint International Grassland/Rangeland Congress, convey deepest condolences on the death of one of the Keynote Speakers, Ms. Ghanimat Azhdari, in the recent plane crash near Tehran, Iran.

Ms. Ghanimat worked for Centre for Sustainable Development and Environment (Cenesta). She was an inspiring, intelligent young scientist who was very passionate about indigenous peoples issues and the environment.  Ms. Ghanimat Azhdari had agreed to give a Keynote presentation on ‘Pastoralism, Social, Gender and Policy Issues’ during the up-coming October 2020 Congress. Read more about the life and work of Ms. Azhdari here.


Quote of the Month: “Where there is No Vision, There is no Hope” ~ George Washington Carver

Genuine vision of a better future is essential in creating a better life. There are costs involved, and one must be willing to bear those costs. Too many people give up, submitting to a life of drudgery. This includes some forage-livestock producers, who muddle along, with no vision to see how new inputs and better management could result in more efficient operation and greater profitability. Lack of vision prevents moving to higher levels of forage-livestock productivity. Order your copy of Forage-Livestock Quote and Concepts, vol. 2, here.