Garst’s 6415 alfalfa was one of three varieties yielding more than 10 tons/acre in Michigan State University research trials, setting a new world record for non-irrigated alfalfa yield.
MSU researchers attribute the high yields to good genetics, timely rainfall and warm temperatures during the growing season. The Garst variety yielded 10.18 tons/acre, closely followed by the WL Research variety, 357 HQ, at 10.16 tons/acre and Pioneer’s DKA33-16 at 10.02 tons/acre. Several other varieties in the trials yielded from 5.3 to 9.5 tons/acre. The previous world record of 10 tons was set at MSU in 1980.
“I think the record-high yield is directly related to better genetics,” says Richard Leep, the MSU crop and soil scientist who oversees the annual alfalfa variety trials. “This variety had a quick recovery after cutting and the ability to regrow very quickly. Without these good genetics, we would not have been able to take advantage of the good growing conditions we had during the year, including warm temperatures and rain when we needed it.”
The alfalfa was planted on Brookston loam soils using no special fertilizer. “We used only what our soil test lab called for,” Leep notes.
Total precipitation from April to October of last year was about 1” below normal, but the distribution of the rainfall came at key times.
“The first cutting was in late May. Then rain helped with the regrowth before the second cutting taken in June,” Leep says. “In July, we normally experience higher temperatures and drier conditions, but we actually received more rain, which helped boost the alfalfa growth again.”