An alfalfa stand needs to perform well for several years and yield is a key performance factor.

“Coming off a challenging growing season, it is important to pick seed for next year that will deliver the most benefit, and that means high yield potential to most farmers,” says Chad Staudinger, forage product manager for Dairyland Seed. “Planting hybrid alfalfa is the first way to consistently ensure higher yield.”

For example, on-farm test plot data from across the Midwest for Dairyland Seed’s Gen-2 HybriForce-2400 show that hybrid alfalfa produced an 8.4% yield increase this year, even with 2012’s extremely variable rainfall and drought conditions.

That yield improvement added up to 0.29 more tons of hay per acre. Next, match varieties to your specific field conditions—including soil type, irrigation opportunities and end-use of hay.

And look for desirable traits like persistence and plant and flowering uniformity that enhance improved yield potential, adds Staudinger.

Once you’ve addressed these goals, there are several additional factors to consider including:

  • Disease resistance. Using the latest genetics available will help avoid disease challenges. Look for the highest DRI (Disease Resistance Index) rating.
  • Winterhardiness/dormancy. Look for winter survival ratings of WV2 or under if you are located in the northern United States. Also check out the variety’s ability to withstand wheel traffic, cutting recovery needed, spring green-up and drought stress tolerance.
  • Forage quality. Choose alfalfa varieties that feature dense, uniform and fine-stemmed stands. Then manage accordingly with proper cutting schedules and fertility to maintain stand and feed quality.
  • Germination. Be sure to check seed bag tags for germination information. The informal industry standard is 90%.

“Given the high price of hay, corn and other feed commodities, even small increases in yield add up quickly and can make a big difference in your bottom line,” says Staudinger.