Submitted to: Western Farmer Stockman
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2002
Publication Date: 5/1/2002
Citation: Schuman, G.E., Mortenson, M.C., and N.R. Smith. 2002. Yellow-flowering alfalfa - its many attributes. p. 8-10. Western Farmer Stockman. May 2002.
Technical Abstract: Opportunity for improvement in rangeland forage production and quality is limited by economics. Much research has been done over the past 25 years evaluating the potential of improving rangeland forage productivity and quality by interseeding of legumes. This research has generally concluded that legeume interseeding is not feasible because of the limited longevity of the planting, loss of forage production due to removal of competition for the interseeded legume, and cost. However, in 2000, we located a rancher in northwestern South Dakota that had been successfully interseeding yellow-flowering alfalfa (Medicago stativa sp. falcata) into rangelands for over 75 years. His success with this subspecies of alfalfa may be in part because of the fibrous nature of the root system compared to the tap-root alfalfa varieties typically evaluated. In 2001, we established a field study on the ranch and found that the interseeded alfalfa significantly increased total forage production, increased protein content of the forage base, and increased soil organic carbon storage. The nitrogen fixed by the legume has resulted in the improved forage production and quality and has also greatly influenced the plant communities ability to assimilate atmospheric carbon dioxide and sequester soil carbon. This range improvement practice can greatly enhance livestock carrying capacity and also greatly enhance the long-term sustainability of the rangeland system.