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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Opportunities for Biotech Traits in Alfalfa Down on the Farm

Author
item Martin, Neal

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 19, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Alfalfa is the third major crop behind corn and soybeans in commodity value in the U.S.; its use supports the dairy, beef, and sheep production industries. Expansion of cattle and sheep numbers does not appear eminent, but improvement in nutritional value, added nutrient recovery (nitrogen and phosphorus) from soils, expansion of alfalfa area of adaptation, and addition of high value-added traits to alfalfa provide a basis for expansion of alfalfa acreage in the U.S. Biotech traits are being developed for alfalfa that show potential for increased yield, improved nutritional value, increased alfalfa uses, increased area of adaptation of alfalfa, and reduced potential nutrient contaminates in livestock manure (nitrogen and phosphorus). Alfalfa producers need traits that will increase profit, which increase yield, increase fiber digestibility, improve protein utilization during fermentation in a silo and ruminant animal digestion. Biotech has potential to save 1/3 of nitrogen in alfalfa during silo fermentation, which can reduce environmental contaminants. Feeding juice made from transgenic alfalfa with a high amount of the enzyme phytase reduced phosphorus levels in poultry manure by 50 percent; a new product potentially worth $1200 per acre, 3 times current farm value. Alfalfa research and education requires a unified effort. New products will be of benefit to farmers if assistance is provided to develop new facilities to process alfalfa and to commit product marketing and development research. Unified support for alfalfa improvements from research and development in public and private sectors, in combination with alfalfa organizations, will further alfalfa improvements reaching the farm.

Technical Abstract: Alfalfa is the third major crop behind corn and soybeans in commodity value in the U.S.; its use supports the dairy, beef, and sheep production industries. Expansion of cattle and sheep numbers does not appear eminent. Biotech traits are being developed for alfalfa which show potential for increased yield, improved nutritional value, increased alfalfa uses, increased area of adaptation of alfalfa, reduced potential nutrient contaminates in livestock manure, and production of new products. Traits of value down on the farm are traits which increase yield, increase fiber digestibility, improve protein utilization in silo fermentation and ruminant animal digestion, reduce environmental contaminants, and produce new products with added value. New products will not benefit farmers unless assistance is provided to develop new processing facilities and to commit product marketing and development research. Research and development in public and private sectors, in combination with alfalfa organizations, must provide unified support for alfalfa improvements to reach the farm.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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