If Midwestern alfalfa growers could spray the crop with Roundup, they could control a number of troublesome weed species with a single application. Forage quality would improve, and weeds might be less of a problem in the following corn crop, too.
So says Gordon Harvey, University of Wisconsin weed control specialist.
Roundup Ready alfalfa isn't available yet, of course, although Monsanto scientists are said to be working on it. Company officials won't comment, and AgrEvo's leaders are similarly mum on the possible future introduction of Liberty Link alfalfa.
Harvey is anxious for the arrival of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
With Roundup, pesky weeds such as quackgrass, dandelions, yellow rocket, white campion and hoary alyssum all could be killed with one Roundup application.
"What if you could get rid of quackgrass in alfalfa before you rotate to corn?" Harvey asks.
He thinks Roundup might actually be more effective in alfalfa than in corn and soybeans.
"This, however, is speculation, until we get the seed to start the research to see what systems work," he adds.
He doubts that the Roundup Ready trait would be as popular in alfalfa as it is in corn and beans.
"Only 17% of this country's 23 million alfalfa acres are treated with herbicides, whereas 95% of U.S. corn and soybean acres are herbicide-treated," he states. "If alfalfa producers are not concerned about their weed problems now, why should they be concerned in the future?"
However, growers might be willing to spray if they could spread the cost over more than one crop. "Roundup Ready alfalfa potentially gives us the chance to develop management systems that involve whole cropping rotations," says Harvey.
He sees less potential for Liberty Link alfalfa.
"Liberty burns down weeds faster," he says. "But, because it doesn't move as far into the root and rhizome systems, it probably would not be as effective against perennials like quackgrass from a rotational standpoint.
"However, if you could use it in new seedings or old stands to control everything from downy brome to quackgrass to dandelions, it would be nice to have."