Alfalfa is a broadly adapted crop: A product that works well in one geography may well work pretty well in another. However, alfalfa growers should resist the temptation to believe any variety will work everywhere.
“There’s a tendency to think one size fits all, but that’s not true,” says David J. Miller, Pioneer senior research manager and director of alfalfa research. “We can develop alfalfa for larger geographies than, say, corn or soybeans. But each grower will need a different suite of traits, depending on the challenges they experience.”
Pioneer provides growers with different kinds of alfalfa varieties. Each variety is a population that conveys a set of valuable characteristics.
For instance, Pioneer offers “muscle” varieties that deliver the strongest package of yield and strong winterhardiness in the Corn Belt. “Quality” varieties generally yield higher relative feed quality levels. Pioneer also has developed potato leafhopper resistance for growers who face severe yield loss from this pest.
Finally, the company markets varieties featuring protection from an array of pests that tend to affect growers in states west of the Missouri River. Root knot nematodes and stem nematodes are challenges for many western growers, and the varieties Pioneer is marketing in those areas require strong resistance to these pests.
Meanwhile, Pioneer is working toward incorporating strong lodging protection across the product lineup. Lodging resistance is a trait that has universal appeal. All growers can benefit from alfalfa that offers superior standability in the face of challenging environments. Pioneer also continues to improve traits to battle Phytophthora, anthracnose and a variety of wilt diseases that affect a wide range of growing areas.
“We’re working to incorporate leafhopper resistance in more varieties, too,” Miller reports. “We realize this pest affects alfalfa growers in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois most severely, but growers in other areas also may benefit from this valuable trait.”
Pioneer uses traditional breeding approaches, crossing effective native genes into varieties. The company also is working with transgenic approaches. With regulatory approval, alfalfa breeders will be able to incorporate such traits into elite alfalfa germplasm to provide customers new and better varieties.
Pioneer is producing alfalfa varieties that carry traits to perform for growers who face a wide range of problems. Talk to your Pioneer sales professional to learn which products will fit best in your fields.