This item has been supplied by a forage marketer and has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hay & Forage Grower.As any alfalfa grower knows, weather conditions can change in minutes and operational priorities can quickly shift due to unforeseen factors. In other words, the one thing alfalfa growers can count on is the fact that they need to be patient, flexible and able to change plans on the fly in order to get the best crop possible. Many farmers are discovering that they can gain flexibility with the management of their alfalfa crop without sacrificing quality by using a relatively new technology: the HarvXtra® Alfalfa trait, which is the most advanced alfalfa trait on the market. It’s the first genetically engineered alfalfa trait developed to maximize quality by reducing the amount of lignin in the plant compared to conventional alfalfa at the same stage of maturity.
For alfalfa producers, this means having the flexibility to maintain harvest timing for higher-quality forage or delay harvest by seven to 10 days to maximize yield potential without losing quality, depending on weather or operational needs.
We’ve worked with a number of farmers who have begun by trying HarvXtra Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology, then increasing their commitment with each subsequent year. The growers we’ve talked with concur that the increased quality, flexibility and ROI potential make the additional investment well worth it.
How it works
The HarvXtra Alfalfa trait improves alfalfa beyond what is possible through conventional breeding techniques. Gene suppression rewires the way alfalfa plants make lignin — the organic compound that provides structure for the plants but is difficult for cattle to digest. This gene suppression changes both the lignin content and its composition, making HarvXtra Alfalfa more digestible for cattle while maintaining the agronomic characteristics that matter most. HarvXtra Alfalfa is also stacked with Roundup Ready Technology for unsurpassed weed control.
Cornering the market on forage quality
By reducing the amount of lignin in the plant, the HarvXtra Alfalfa trait fundamentally changes the relationship between forage quality and stage of maturity. Less acid detergent lignin (ADL) means higher neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) for improved digestibility, which can command a higher price per ton at harvest or the quality feed you want for your livestock. The HarvXtra Alfalfa trait provides on average 14 to 18 percent higher Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) and NDFD across cuttings than conventional varieties harvested at the same stage of maturity.*
Greg Moes, his brother and his two sons run MoDak Dairy in Goodwin, South Dakota. The family farms about 4,000 acres, which provides all the forages consumed by the dairy herd and replacements. Currently, the farm milks 2,000-plus cows. Recent quality tests of HarvXtra Alfalfa grown on the Moes farm indicated a Relative Feed Value (RFV) of 200 and an RFQ of 233. “Usually, you don’t get that high of an RFV or an RFQ,” says Moes. “HarvXtra Alfalfa seems like it’s been achieving those higher numbers at almost every cutting on our farm.”
Getting the most out of their alfalfa crops is important to the Moes family. “The reason we planted HarvXtra Alfalfa in the first place is because we make every stand, every soil type and every management practice work to the limit,” says Moes. “We cut four to five times a year, and what intrigued us most about HarvXtra Alfalfa was the option to delay cutting. If we can eliminate even one cutting, that’s going to be a huge savings for us in equipment such as custom choppers, soil preservation and time.”
Widening the harvest window
With HarvXtra Alfalfa, growers have the option to achieve a 25 percent higher yield potential** by delaying harvest to 35-day cutting intervals. This is based on three cuttings at 35-day intervals compared to four cuttings at 28-day intervals, with the three-cut system yielding more over the life of the stand.
Justin Peterson, a farmer in Bangor, Wisconsin, runs an 800-cow dairy operation that includes 1,700 crop acres. Peterson has 500 acres of alfalfa in his crop mix and planted approximately 190 acres of HarvXtra Alfalfa in 2017, trying it mostly because of the product’s flexibility and economic benefits.
“For the past several years, our weather has been challenging when it comes to hitting the 28- to 30-day harvest window for a four-cut alfalfa system,” says Peterson. “Because we use custom harvesters, it all needs to be cut within our allotted time frame. Until we can transition all of our alfalfa to HarvXtra Alfalfa, we’re still on a four-cut system. But I’m really intrigued with having an extended harvest window and using a three-cut system.”
Peterson increased his HarvXtra Alfalfa acreage by 100 acres this year and hopes to transition his entire alfalfa crop to HarvXtra Alfalfa varieties by 2019.
Discover how the HarvXtra Alfalfa trait can help you increase flexibility, improve forage quality, and optimize your yield and ROI potential. Talk with your trusted advisor today or visit HarvXtra.com to learn how HarvXtra Alfalfa could work in your fields.
*Data comes from FGI trials comparing HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology 2017 commercial varieties to commercial checks. Information is based on data from the 2017 commercial fall dormancy 4 (FD4) products available on the market. Trials were seeded in 2013 and harvested in 2014 and 2015 from Nampa, ID; Touchet, WA; Boone, IA; West Salem, WI; and Mt. Joy, PA.
**Data comes from an FGI trial in West Salem, WI, comparing three cuttings at 35-day intervals to four cuttings at 28-day intervals, with the three-cut system yielding 25% more over the life of the stand. Trials were seeded in 2013 and harvested in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Yield increase is directly correlated to the ability to delay harvest.
Due to factors outside of Forage Genetics International’s (FGI’s) control, such as weather, crop production patterns, and other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields or financial performance, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by FGI. Results are based upon FGI controlled tests and field trials and public trials. Actual results may vary.
HarvXtra® is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC, used under license by Forage Genetics International, LLC.
HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is subject to planting and use restrictions. Visit www.ForageGenetics.com/legal for the full legal, stewardship and trademark statements for these products.