Low-lignin and tannin-containing alfalfas are just two examples of alfalfas being developed using biotechnology along with traditional plant breeding methods, said Joe Bouton, director of the Forage Improvement Division of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK. He spoke at the National Alfalfa Symposium last month.

Low-lignin alfalfa has been estimated to produce a 10% increase in fiber digestibility that could increase milk or beef production by $350 million/year and decrease manure production by 2.8 million tons/year, according to U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center (USDFRC) studies. New varieties with this trait may be commercially available to seed producers in 2012.

Tannin alfalfa, now in an early stage of development, could reduce bypass protein problems and cause less bloating in animals. It could reduce protein feed supplementation by 60% and nitrogen losses by 25%, bring up to a 12% increase in net return for dairies and increase alfalfa silage value by $23/ton, according to a USDFRC dairy model.

For more on Bouton's presentation, visit: hayandforage.com/alfalfasymposium/coverage/biotechnology-delivers-better-alfalfa/. For recaps of other symposium talks, visit: hayandforage.com/alfalfasymposium/coverage/.