Interseeding Yellow-flowered Alfalfa into Crested Wheatgrass Stands for Multiple Uses and Benefits

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,060.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: South Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Roger Gates
SDSU Extension
Faculty Advisor:
Lan Xu
South Dakota State University


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, pasture renovation, range improvement
  • Crop Production: no-till
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Monocultures of crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) are a major component of grassland vegetation in many areas of the Northern Great Plains. Crested wheatgrass plays a critical role in livestock production within this region, particularly by providing early spring grazing. However, its competitiveness limits the presence of companion plant species, minimizing species diversity. Poor seasonal forage availability and a reduction in ecological goods and services results. Interseeding yellow-flowered alfalfa (Medicago sativa subsp. falcata), which is adapted to this semiarid region, into crested wheatgrass monocultures would improve the plant community while minimizing environmental risks, particularly erosion. Long-term benefits potentially include: increased forage production and quality, nitrogen fixation, carbon sequestration, and improved wildlife habitat. Successfully interseeding this alfalfa into grass-dominated stands is crucial to utilizing this forage for multiple benefits. Project outcomes are focused on increasing awareness and utilization of yellow-flowered alfalfa to improve ranch sustainability. This two-year study is currently evaluating alfalfa establishment based on three main factors: seeding date, sod suppression, and seeding rate. The project was implemented at four locations: Newcastle, WY, Fruitdale, SD, Buffalo, SD, and Hettinger, ND.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of this study is to determine interseeding techniques that will provide the highest probability of establishment success with the fewest resources (financial, time, and labor).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.