GHGMP News Releases

Alfalfa important to cropping systems

Winnipeg, Man., August 11, 2004

Alfalfa, either as pasture or a hay stand, can provide a valuable break in annual cropping rotations, studies in Manitoba are showing.

The demonstration project, started on two sites in 2003 and to be further monitored over the next two years, suggests the forage crop can produce a decent economic return, help improve soil quality and may contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, says Bryce Wood with the Manitoba Zero Tillage Research Association (MZTRA).

"Our goal with the project is to show that alfalfa can be a valuable part of an annual crop rotation," says Wood. "New bloat control products on the market today allow for safe grazing of alfalfa, and the legume can produce a good return as a hay crop too."

The demonstration project is being partially funded by the federal Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP). Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) is administering the soil and nutrient management sector of the program. A feature report on the project is available on SCCC's Web site at www.soilcc.ca.

The MZTRA project compares the productivity and economics of alfalfa pasture to alfalfa hay at one site and also looks at the soil improvement benefits of alfalfa at a second location.

"We feel alfalfa has good economics for producers, benefits soil conservation efforts and helps the environment," says Wood, who is also a Manitoba field co-ordinator for the GHGMP. "A vigorously growing perennial stand helps sequester carbon and reduces tillage over the lifespan of the stand, which means less fuel consumption and also results in a reduced need for nitrogen fertilizer."

In the first year of the project, despite using the bloat control product Alfasure, operators were still cautious with grazing. The forage blend included 15 percent grass to cushion the effect of alfalfa on bloat. The stocking rate was also kept low in order to assess how the cattle handled the alfalfa and to determine pasture carrying capacity.

Dry weather conditions reduced the productivity of the pasture and hay, but Wood says the bloat control product worked well. The project will continue until at least 2005 and will consist of grazing pure alfalfa stands.

The GHGMP supports a broad range of projects across Canada with the goal to promote awareness of agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For more information on the program and projects, visit SCCC's Web site at www.soilcc.ca.


For more information, contact:

Bryce Wood
MZTRA
Phone: (204) 729-8838

Doug McKell, P. Ag.
Executive Director, SCCC
Phone: (306) 695-4212
Fax: (306) 695-4213
Web site: www.soilcc.ca