Hybridization technology promises dramitic yield gains and grower flexibility.

Hybrid vigor has finally come to alfalfa. Dairyland Seeds, West Bend, WI, announces it has developed technology for hybridizing alfalfa. The first variety to be developed using the technology — HybriForce -400 — will be available in very limited quantities this spring.

University and on-farm tests of HybriForce -400 show an 8-15% improvement in yield over current varieties. In addition, the hybrid vigor will produce stronger plants and stands that will likely last longer, says Paul Sun, Dairyland's vice president of research.

While progress has been made the past two decades in disease resistance and winter hardiness of alfalfa varieties, yield potential has remained basically constant.

With hybridization — the crossing of two genetic lines — the new alfalfa varieties will see dramatic yield gains similar to those experienced with hybrid corn varieties, Sun says.

The result is that, while hybrid alfalfa breaks dormancy at the same time as conventional varieties, the spring growth and regrowth after cutting is more aggressive in hybrid plants.

And, because the new hybrids are “stronger,” meaning the plants can utilize and produce carbohydrates and sugars stored in the root system more effectively, the plants can take more abuse. Thus, the hybrid alfalfa can be harvested at early bud stage with less risk of stand loss than with current alfalfas. That provides a wider harvest window and more grower flexibility.

In addition to the HybriForce -400 variety, Dairyland plans to license the patented msSUNSTRA hybrid alfalfa technology to other seed companies. As a result, additional hybrid alfalfa varieties should be available for the 2002 growing season.

The price on the seed in 2001 is $270/50-lb. bag. However, the company says one bag of hybrid alfalfa will produce 4.8 to 9 tons more alfalfa than conventional varieties. In a four-year stand with hay valued at $80/ton, hybrids will provide an additional $384 to $720 in additional value/bag (at an 8% and 15% yield advantage, respectively), they say.

In a two-year rotation, the advantage would be $134 and $252 at an 8% and 15% yield advantage, respectively.

For more information, visit Dairyland Seed at www.dairylandseed.com or call 800/236-0163.