Cornell Cooperative Extension is holding a field day for farmers to demonstrate some Alfalfa traits, how they affect pest management, and to discuss which traits are most appropriate for their farms. Field demonstrations and a discussion will be led by Aaron Gabriel, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Ken Wise, NYS Integrated Pest Management Specialist, at O. A. Borden & Sons, 2841 Valley Falls Rd., Easton, New York. The free meeting is from 1 pm to 3 pm on June 23. Two pesticide recertification credits and two certified crop advisor credits are available.
Alfalfa is a major forage crop grown for livestock in New York and around the world. Agronomists say that alfalfa can endure one insult (pest or stress), but not two. Keeping alfalfa productive for three or four years in a crop rotation is a challenge, especially when our best soils are continually lost to development. Alfalfa breeders have been hard at work developing alfalfa varieties that will endure insects, diseases, machinery traffic and livestock hooves while having better feed quality. However, no alfalfa variety has all these beneficial traits together.
Farmers have to prioritize which traits are most important for their particular farms. Each trait affects how a farmer manages insects, diseases, and weeds. For example, low-lignin alfalfa, which has a higher feed value is just coming on the market. This trait allows farmers to wait longer before harvesting the first cutting in the spring, while still retaining good feed value. However, to combat potato leafhopper and alfalfa weevil outbreaks, farmers often harvest their crop early. A different strategy is needed to control these insects with this type of alfalfa. The crowns of sunken crown alfalfa varieties are damaged less by machinery traffic. They also get less crown rotting diseases, but they may not be resistant to the potato leafhopper which is a problem during dry years.