A majority of growers surveyed on the use of Roundup Ready alfalfa gave the transgenic crop an “A,” reported Mick Canevari, farm advisor for San Joaquin County, at the mid-December California Alfalfa & Forage Association meeting.

Canevari received responses from 24 growers, 11 consultants, three seed dealers and five university researchers from California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Washington and New Mexico.

“Growers who have experience growing Roundup Ready alfalfa were overwhelmingly positive for weed control and listed many other advantages associated with maintaining weed-free fields, forage quality, productivity, stand population and price,” Canevari said.

Of the growers, who in 2007 raised 27,415 acres of alfalfa of which 4,629 acres (17%) were Roundup Ready, 19 gave the crop an “A,” four gave it a “B” and one a “C” grade. They were asked, “Has Roundup Ready alfalfa worked to your satisfaction?”

Many cited as advantages to using the crop: less herbicide was needed, yields increased, weeds were controlled, they received high prices for the hay, got better horse hay, better stands and water was used efficiently.

“The majority of responses clearly favored perennial weed control as the key reason for planting Roundup Ready alfalfa and that their expectations were met or had been exceeded,” he added.

None of the growers offered any major disadvantages to planting, raising or marketing the crop. Some were concerned with the individual bale labeling issue that has since been resolved, and were disappointed that they can't plant Roundup Ready alfalfa at this time. Other disadvantages mentioned: damping off disease, an increased amount of phytophthora root rot and lower forage quality.

Growers were asked to list deciding factors to planting Roundup Ready alfalfa. Most wrote of weed control problems, the convenience of having fewer spray applications, less chemical usage and cost and the potential of increas-ed income from fewer weeds and higher-quality forage yield.

Some of the weeds that growers said were controlled in Roundup Ready alfalfa included: dodder, common groundsel, summer grasses, bur clover, watergrass, nutsedge, johnsongrass, shepherd's purse, dandelion, kochia and quackgrass. University and industry representatives and pest-control consultants added to that list: Canada thistle, R. knapweed, pepperweed, hoary cress, curly dock, bindweed, lovegrass, wild radish and foxtail.

Those same people were asked to rate Roundup Ready alfalfa's usefulness to the industry, with 10 being most useful. The average score was nine.