After eight years of research and testing, the first low-lignin alfalfa is available to dairy farmers and alfalfa growers. Alforex Seeds unveiled their Hi-Gest alfalfa to dairy producers at World Dairy Expo in Madison.
Alforex Seeds General Manager Ron Cornish describes the new alfalfa as a "game changer" for dairy producers and custom hay growers.
"The agronomists, animal nutritionists, breeders and technical advisers working in Hi-Gest tracked digestible fiber algorithms to monitor how the low-lignin product is broken down and digested in dairy cows," Cornish said. "Simply stated, low-lignin alfalfa delivers improved digestibility and allows cows to increase dry matter intake, yielding more milk per ton of alfalfa.
Cornish noted that it has been estimated that dairy cows fed Hi-Gest alfalfa could produce up to 2.5 pounds of milk per cow per day. Low-lignin alfalfa also has the potential to reduce ration costs.
David Johnson, an Alforex Seeds breeder, said Hi-Gest's elite genetics address the elements that contribute to a top alfalfa crop including high quality, high yield and good agronomics.
"Hi-Gest alfalfa takes away the trade-off that has traditionally existed between high forage yields and high forage quality," Johnson noted. "Hi-Gest offers growers the total package of improved yields, higher digestibility rates and good winter survival, along with superior disease and pest resistance."
According to Johnson, Hi-Gest offers harvesting flexibility. Farmers can harvest on their regular 28-day schedule and get higher quality hay. Or they can delay harvest by up to seven days and get a hay quality comparable to the harvest they received before using Hi-gest with higher yields.
From a distance, a field of Hi-Gest alfalfa will look very much the same as a synthetic alfalfa field. However, according to Alforex Seeds breeders, standing in a Hi-Gest alfalfa field, the grower will see a leafy, dense canopy with a higher concentration of leaves in the lower plant canopy than most other synthetic varieties. Foliage color is medium-dark green with fine to medium stems.
The most common concern about low-lignin varieties is lodging. According to Johnson, "During the development of Hi-Gest alfalfa, our breeders carefully monitored the plant lignin content to ensure the amount of lignin reduction was not at a level that adversely affected standability, but reduced enough to still provide a significant increase in digestibility."
As a result of breeding efforts, Johnson said the lodging tolerance of the Hi-Gest varieties is comparable to synthetic alfalfas. According to Alforex breeders, advanced testing of the Hi-Gest varieties has shown no indication that the lignin reduction levels of the Hi-Gest varieties increase lodging when compared to their synthetic varieties.
Alforex Seeds is offering a limited amount of Hi-Gest seed now. Additional seed will be available in 2015. Alforex dealers are located across the United States.
"This is truly a revolutionary advancement or alfalfa growers and dairy farmers," Cornish concluded. "Hi-Gest reflects Alforex Seeds' commitment to alfalfa and forage excellence and continuing innovation."