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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Plant and Animal Genetic Resources Preservation » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #341892

Research Project: Plant and Microbial Genetic Resource Preservation and Quality Assessment

Location: Plant and Animal Genetic Resources Preservation

Title: Practices that support coexistence: A survey of Alfalfa growers

Author
item Kesoju, Sandya - Washington State University
item Greene, Stephanie

Submitted to: Crop, Forage & Turfgrass Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/18/2017
Publication Date: 6/15/2017
Citation: Kesoju, S., Greene, S.L. 2017. Practices that support coexistence: A survey of Alfalfa growers. Crop, Forage & Turfgrass Management. doi:10.2134/cftm2016.12.0080.

Interpretive Summary: The alfalfa industry has worked to foster the coexistence of genetically-engineered (GE) and conventional alfalfa production by developing a set of best management practices that aim to limit adventitious-presence (AP) of GE traits in conventional seed. The general goal is to minimize transgene movement by controlling inadvertent admixture or gene flow using practices that ensure seed is pure, sanitation is prioritized, spillage is minimized and pollination is prevented. However, the success of coexistence is dependent upon grower adoption, which has not been monitored. To assess adoption we surveyed 530 alfalfa hay and seed producers in three major alfalfa production areas in the western United States in 2013. Based on a 33% response rate, we found that although many respondents reported practices that supported coexistence, the survey identified differences in grower perception and practices that may undermine coexistence. Our survey suggested that grower education would benefit coexistence, as would research to better understand the potential of GE hay fields to contribute to adventitious presence in conventional seed fields.

Technical Abstract: The alfalfa industry has worked hard to foster the coexistence of genetically-engineered (GE) and conventional alfalfa production by developing a set of best management practices that aim to limit adventitious-presence (AP) of GE traits in conventional seed. The general goal is to minimize transgene movement by controlling inadvertent admixture or gene flow using practices that ensure seed is pure, sanitation is prioritized (i.e. avoidance of seed mixing), spillage is minimized and pollination is prevented. However, the success of coexistence is dependent upon grower adoption, which has not been monitored. To assess adoption we surveyed 530 alfalfa hay and seed producers in three major alfalfa production areas in the western United States in 2013. Based on a 33% response rate, we found that although many respondents reported practices that supported coexistence, the survey identified differences in grower perception and practices in the three states surveyed that could undermine coexistence. We found that very few respondents (4%) tested hay seed prior to planting and no respondents in Washington reported testing seed, despite reporting the highest level of export. Growers also underestimated the risk of seed spillage during planting, seed harvest and transport. Most respondents controlled feral plants, but control was limited to their own property. Some respondents used glyphosate to control volunteers and roadside plants. Management of hay fields also varied, in terms of cutting time, frequency of delayed cutting, and occurrence of field obstructions that prevented cutting. Our survey suggested that grower education would benefit coexistence, as would research to better understand the potential of GE hay fields to contribute to economically adverse AP.