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 A Prism Business Media Publication April 11, 2006 |  
Exploring A New Market For Alfalfa
Top of the News National Alfalfa And Forage Alliance Formed Consider Forages When Water Is Limited
Insect Update Illinois Missouri
State Reports California New Jersey
Events Calendar
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This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Exploring A New Market For Alfalfa
A $150 million to $250 million worldwide market exists for lutein, a naturally occurring caretenoid product found in alfalfa, says Todd Leonard, St. Paul, MN. As president of a new company called NuTein, he's working to develop alfalfa-based human nutritional products containing lutein. His company has collaborated with a number of other companies, such as Forage Genetics and Croplan Genetics, to develop products that utilize the natural substance. Studies have shown that it may help protect against eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, in addition to providing other health benefits. NuTein owns patents for eyedrops, dietary supplements and sports drinks containing lutein. A pilot manufacturing plant was opened in Cozad, NE, in the spring of 2004, and plans call for two or three additional plants within the U.S.

Leonard told attendees at Hay & Forage Grower's recent Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo that alfalfa growers can contract with the company and will be encouraged to plant specific varieties in order to produce alfalfa that works best for lutein production. Growers will harvest the crop in the preflower stage and deliver freshly cut alfalfa to the processing plant.

Contact Leonard at 651-632-9600.

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National Alfalfa And Forage Alliance Formed
The recently formed National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance (NAFA) is a hybrid of the existing National Alfalfa Alliance (NAA) with membership from additional industry stakeholders. It was formed to significantly enhance and broaden what the NAA had been doing, according to NAA Executive Director Rod Christensen, Ag Management, Inc., Kennewick, WA. Although NAA bylaws contained provisions for membership of forage groups and allied industries, there were no provisions giving them significant membership on the organization's board of directors. The newly adopted NAFA bylaws resolve this condition, Christensen says.

NAFA has an 18-member board of directors, including equal representation from alfalfa seed growers, alfalfa seed suppliers, state and regional hay and forage associations and allied industries. There is also a provision for ex-officio participation from the university-extension segment, as well as potential involvement by sister organizations and government regulatory agencies. A primary tenet of the new organization is that it's an "umbrella" organization, Christensen says. "There is no intention of displacing any of the member organizations or any other organization currently established in the industry. In fact, the opposite is the case. NAFA will strive to work in concert with existing organizations to achieve mutual goals and to avoid duplicity of efforts," he states.

NAFA will be administered by co-executive directors Beth Nelson of Beth C.W. Nelson & Associates, Inc., St. Paul, MN, and Christensen. Nelson's primary focus will be legislative/regulatory matters. Christensen will coordinate all other administrative matters. "It's very exciting to see the industry come together in the way it has on this effort," Christensen says. "The new board of directors is dedicated to the NAFA objective of being a forum for consensus-building among the various alfalfa and forage industry stakeholders and to be an effective political advocate on behalf of the industry. Our mission is to ensure the ability of all segments of the industry to compete effectively and profitably, both domestically and abroad. Alfalfa and forages rank third in the U.S. in value of production and yet we've not had a single voice telling our story. NAFA is dedicated to doing so."

Membership is available to any U.S. individual, association, firm or corporation actively engaged in growing, producing, handling, processing or purchasing hay, haylage or alfalfa seed in the U.S., or in supplying goods or commercial services to producers. The existing Web site at is being rebuilt and will serve as a focal point for information, bulletins and updates on NAFA activities. The popular Alfalfa Intensive Training Seminars will continue, with the next seminar taking place Oct. 24-26 in Las Vegas. The annual Fall Dormancy and Pest Resistance Ratings for Alfalfa is continuing, with publication of the 2006-2007 issue expected in mid-September.

For further information on NAFA and on becoming a member, call 509-585-5460, fax 509-585-2671 or email

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Consider Forages When Water Is Limited
If it looks like Midwestern water supplies may be too short to plant usual crops this spring, Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska extension forage specialist, suggests that producers consider planting forages. Many irrigated acres won't receive enough water this summer to grow their usual grain or root crop. Forage crops also need water for high production, but unlike many crops, at least some useful yield can be gathered when total available water is very low, Anderson says. He urges growers to consider whether water limits are expected to continue for several more years. If so, a perennial forage would eliminate the cost and time of establishing a new crop each year, he says.

Switchgrass is one good choice because it's less expensive to plant, needs water mostly during early summer when water usually is available, and can be used for hay or pasture. Other good warm-season grass options include big or sand bluestem and indiangrass, especially for grazing. Some of the wheatgrasses and bromegrasses, as well as alfalfa, can work with limited irrigation. But these cool-season plants respond best to water applied during spring. For some irrigators, water doesn't become available until after the most efficient time has passed.

Another set of options are annual forages like pearl and foxtail millet, cane and sorghum-sudangrass. These forages are relatively water-efficient and their yield will be proportional to the amount of water they receive. Small grains like rye, triticale and oats for fall and spring forage may also work well if you have moisture at those times. Anderson says it might not be what producers hoped for, but growing forages under limited irrigation may help make the best out of a bad situation.

Source: Nebraska Crop Watch Newsletter.

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Insect Update
It's time to watch for alfalfa weevils in Illinois, according University of Illinois entomologists. The Bulletin newsletter offers some tips for scouting for alfalfa weevil larvae. Be sure to look for weevils and their feeding symptoms throughout the field, not just along the edges. Look at areas of the field that may warm up early, such as south-facing slopes and areas of lighter soil. The best way to count the larvae is to snap stems off at ground level and place them top down in a white bucket.

The entomologists recommend collecting stems at random locations by walking in a U-shaped pattern through the field. After collecting 30 stems, beat the stems, a few at a time, against the sides of the bucket to dislodge the larvae. Sample plant heights throughout the field, or randomly select a sample of 10 of the stems to measure the height.

Clover leaf weevils can be present in alfalfa fields just before alfalfa weevils are noticed. The entomologists urge producers to make sure to properly identify the weevil larvae before making any treatment decisions.

Source: University of Illinois.

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Alfalfa weevil larvae are present in many southern Missouri alfalfa fields, requiring insecticide applications in some fields, according to Wayne Bailey, University of Missouri entomologist. Producers in southern and central Missouri counties are encouraged to scout for weevils and damage. Although most larvae in southern Missouri are small to medium in size, economic damage has resulted in the need for use of control measures. Damage is expected farther north as eggs continue to hatch and larvae develop.

Although numbers of alfalfa weevil eggs are high in most areas of the state, high egg numbers don't always result in high numbers of larvae or heavy yield loss, Bailey notes. In years with cool, wet springs, a fungal pathogen often infects and quickly kills alfalfa weevil larvae. Recent rainfall and cool nighttime temperatures throughout the state increase the potential for development of the fungus. Infected larvae change from their normal green to more yellow in color, move more slowly and generally die within two or three days. So far, Bailey says the fungus has not been found infecting alfalfa weevil larvae in the state.

The main management option for early weevil infestations on small alfalfa is an application of a labeled insecticide. Early harvest, either by machine or livestock, may be a viable option for some producers. If early harvest by machine is selected as a control strategy, the crop should be cut seven to 10 days prior to the normal plant growth stage of 1/10th bloom. Data from a Missouri study indicates that weevil larvae numbers may be reduced by about 98% with mechanical harvest, and about 90% by cattle in a management-intensive grazing system. Producers using grazing as a control strategy must be aware of the bloat risk to cattle grazing green alfalfa, and the risk to the alfalfa stand due to trampling during wet conditions.

Scattered problems with cowpea and pea aphids have been reported in southwestern Missouri. The cowpea aphid, dark-colored to black, tends to feed on the tips of alfalfa during early spring, and can cause yellowing of plant leaflets from the bottom upward. Although no formal economic threshold is available, the one used for pea aphids would be a good starting point. If an average of 50 or more aphids are present per alfalfa stem, control may be justified. If plants are under drought stress or are growing slowly due to cool weather, the threshold number would be reduced. Treatment also may be justified if plants are yellowing and aphids are present, Bailey suggests.

The pea aphid is larger, green in color and can be identified by a dark band around the base of the antennal segments. Pea aphid problems are most severe on slow-growing alfalfa during early spring. Later infestations during spring may cause economic problems, but generally plants 10" or more in height can withstand higher aphid numbers. As with cowpea aphids, pea aphids can cause yellowing and sometimes wilting of plants due to their removal of plant juices.

Contact Bailey at 573-882-2838.

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State Reports
Heavy rains in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys have slowed the harvest plans of most area hay growers, according to Dan Putnam, statewide alfalfa and forage extension specialist, University of California, Davis. The Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys together are referred to as California's Central Valley. "We're seeing lots of damage to alfalfa growth and to some stands," Putnam reports. "Many producers in the Central Valley won't make a first cut until late April or even May this year. This is fairly unusual, since most years they have cut by now, sometimes in March." Putnam says winter conditions were favorable for growth early on, but the wet conditions will mean delays and possibly the loss of an entire cutting. The wet weather has also caused leaf-disease challenges. Growers in the intermountain area have been seeing a lot of stem nematode damage due to this year's weather patterns, too.

Producers in the Imperial Valley are into their second, or possibly third, alfalfa cutting during April. The first cutting typically takes place in February. "The low-desert regions of Blythe and El Centro are probably the only areas in the state where we had a fairly normal first cutting, and even there it has been cold for the desert," Putnam says. "Most of that hay will go up into the dairies in the Central Valley. We don't have much carryover from last year anywhere in Nevada, Arizona or California, so we're talking about relatively high prices. However, milk prices are down quite a bit, so demand may be dampened."

The decision has been made to start selling Roundup Ready alfalfa in the Imperial Valley with certain restrictions, starting next fall. It was approved for sale in the U.S. in June 2005. At that time, seed sales were restricted in Washington state and the Imperial Valley of California due to market considerations for the hay and concerns about cross-contamination with fields where non-Roundup Ready seed is produced. When Roundup Ready seed is sold in the Imperial Valley, there will be restrictions regarding how close the fields can be to non-Roundup Ready alfalfa seed fields. "The Imperial Valley has quite a concentration of alfalfa, with seed production located right next to hay production," Putnam explains. "A lot of Imperial Valley hay goes to the export market in Japan. Some of the export markets have been sensitive to the presence of the genetically engineered traits."

The University of California Alfalfa Workgroup has put together a comprehensive Web site pertaining to hay and forage production in the state. A map on the site shows the major hay-production areas in California. Visit the site at

Contact Putnam at 530-752-8982.

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New Jersey
Parts of New Jersey are still suffering from drought conditions this spring, reports Rick Crouse, Skyview Farms, Frenchtown. "We had close to an inch of rain within the last week, but we still really need more rain," he says. Extremely dry conditions last summer cut Crouse's grass hay yield to about 60% of normal. Because of the area's low production, demand for hay was strong during the winter and into spring. In addition to growing their own hay, Rick and his wife, Melissa, broker hay for other producers.

Skyview Farms primarily offers timothy hay for the horse market at both the wholesale and retail levels. The Crouses also provide alfalfa, a timothy-alfalfa mix and orchardgrass hay, as well as pellets, cubes and double-compressed hay for the export market. Rick is currently looking for sources of timothy and alfalfa hay in 3 x 3' or 3 x 4' bales.

Contact Skyview Farms at 908-996-7800.

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**April 19-20 -- 2006 Mid-South Ruminant Nutrition Conference, Arlington Hilton at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Sponsored by Texas A&M University Extension Service and the Texas Animal Nutrition Council. Contact Ellen Jordan at 972-952-9201 or

**April 21-23 -- Midwest Horse Fair, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Learn more at

**April 28-30 -- Minnesota Horse Expo, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul. Learn more at

**May 4 -- Beef Cattle and Forage Crops Field Day, Kansas State University, Southeast Agricultural Research Center, Mound Valley, KS. Contact Lyle Lomas at 620-421-4826, ext. 12, or, or visit

**May 9 -- University of California-Davis Alfalfa/Forage & Small Grains Field Day, UC-Davis Agronomy Farm Field Headquarters, Hutchison Road. Take Hutchison Road 1/3 mile west from Hwy. 113 near Davis and look for headquarters on left.

**May 25 -- University of Florida Corn Silage and Forage Field Day, Plant Science Unit, Citra, FL. Contact Jerry Wasdin at 352-392-1120 or, or visit Under "Dairy Cattle," click on "Corn Silage Field Day."

**June 14-15 -- Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference, Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA. Call Dave Fischer, 618-692-9434 or Leo Timms, 515-294-4522.

**Sept. 7-9 -- National Hay Association 111th Annual Convention, Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole, WY. Call 800-707-0014 or visit

**Sept. 12 -- Kentucky Forage And Grassland Council Field Day, Dobbs Shady Meadow Farm, Campbell County. Learn more at

**Oct. 3-7 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Learn more at

**Nov. 21 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, Fayette County Extension Office, Lexington. Learn more at

**Dec. 11-13 -- Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference, Reno, NV.

**Jan. 24-25, 2007 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference, Holiday Inn, Mount Vernon, IL.

**Feb. 27, 2007 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Cave City Convention Center. Learn more at

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Comments from Readers
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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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