Most of the alfalfa varieties being introduced for the 2008 planting season have been reviewed and approved for certification by the National Alfalfa and Miscellaneous Legumes Variety Re-view Board, which is an association of official seed certifying agencies.
A few of those listed on these pages are being marketed now, but will go through board review this coming January. (Those varieties are footnoted.)
Some of the new alfalfas fill a void in a company's alfalfa lineup. Others offer improved pest resistance or other traits.
Buying alfalfa seed that's eligible for certification is a grower's best insurance when the seed supply is tight, says Dan Undersander, extension forage specialist with the University of Wisconsin.
“In years when seed is short and people really scrape the bottom of the barrel, you end up with two things. Seed may not have the high germination or the low level of hard seed we'd like to see. Or it may have weed seeds and other things in it. So certification will tell you that you've got clean seed and that the seed will germinate,” he says.
Undersander recommends that growers buy from dealers with proven reputations. Major seed companies have their varieties reviewed. Those that pass board review are eligible for certification, but much of the domestic alfalfa seed is not actually certified.
“If you know the dealer and trust that company, then eligible for certification is the important characteristic” when shopping for alfalfa seed, he adds. “We should remind people that, over the last few years, even the blends and the ‘cheaper’ seed have been of very good genetics because of a good supply of seed.
“But this year, when the supply of seed is less, the difference between the lower-cost seed and the premium seed will be far greater in terms of performance than it has been previously.”
So it's worth a grower's while to buy varieties with known levels of disease resistance rather than brown-bag seed, or seed not eligible for certification. Buying common or brown-bag alfalfa is “sort of like saying you don't know whether you're getting a Holstein or a Guernsey,” Undersander says.