Pioneer maintains two alfalfa breeding stations. This site in Arlington, Wis., was organized in 1985 and covers 30 acres. A second location is near Connell, Wash.
To develop an aphid resistance trait, researchers conduct seed trials and checks and record damage for one to two weeks.
Adding aphids at the seeding stage and rotating food sources for the tiny insects every five days help to develop resistance in plants.
After researchers select the best plants in the greenhouse, they transplant the soil plugs outside and check them for six to eight months.
A scale of standard tests, ranging from susceptible to highly resistant, determines how plants stack up against bacterial wilt, fungal diseases, and viruses.
Researchers want to be 20 years ahead of what farmers need in their alfalfa crop. After they throw a battery of tests at alfalfa plants, their goal is to develop varieties with a high resistance level to as many diseases as possible.
Stem cuttings help determine the structure of an alfalfa plant. Criteria include height, leafiness and lodging.
After notes are taken on every cut for three years, progeny and precision
testing is done on 30 to 40 plants out of every 1,000 plants. Winter hardiness and yield are the core ingredients in determining the progeny of each plant.
In these 3- x 12-ft. plots that are replicated four times, plants are harvested with a flair chopper, weighed and then transported and tested in Washington for another three years.
Primary forage testing involves developing genes that improve winter hardiness, seed production, yield and insect tolerance. Pioneer researchers strive to put one or two new varieties into the marketplace each year.
Farm Industry News photographer Harlen Persinger chronicles how alfalfa plants make it to producers’ fields.
Additional Farm Industry News articles on alfalfa:
Roundup Ready alfalfa back
When to apply glyphosate to RoundupReady alfalfa
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