Alfalfa to Be
Used to Generate Electricity and Feed Cattle
By Dawn Lyons
November 19, 1996
ST. PAUL, Minn., Nov. 19--A
new type of alfalfa in the works in Minnesota holds promise as both a
high-protein feed source for dairy cattle and an environmentally friendly
energy source to generate electricity for Minnesota consumers.
Scientists with the U.S. Department of
Agricultures Agricultural Research
Service here have teamed with researchers at the University of Minnesota to
develop the new alfalfa. The first generation of the new type is taller,
stronger and has thicker stems than alfalfa typically fed to cattle. The
researchers say the leaves can be stripped off, ground into meal and fed to
cattle, while the stems can fuel electric generating plants.
The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The new alfalfa will
be grown and marketed by local farmers, including a southwestern Minnesota
farmers cooperative that also plans to build a generating unit and sell
"First and foremost, the new alfalfa type provides a large new market
for alfalfa, says ARS dairy scientist Hans Jung, coordinator for the ARS
portion of the energy project. It won't compete with existing alfalfa
markets because it isn't being produced strictly as animal feed.
A feasibility study shows it would be profitable to market the stems for
energy production and the leaves for meal. Whole plant alfalfa brings about
$100 per ton on the open market in Minnesota. Selling the alfalfa leaves as a
value-added product could bring additional profits to growers.
"We believe there is a good market for the leaf meal in many areas of
the livestock industry, especially dairy cattle," says Jung.
A report on this research is featured in the October issue of
Agricultural Research, the monthly magazine of the
Agricultural Research Service. The
magazine can be viewed on the World Wide Web in PDF file format at:
Scientific contact: Carroll Vance, Plant Science Research, USDA-ARS,
411 Borlaugh Hall, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn. 55108. Telephone:
(612) 625-1991; firstname.lastname@example.org.