Systems for sustainability of alfalfa production on acid, Coastal Plain soils using various harvesting strategies

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $149,750.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $134,290.00
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Vincent Haby
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station

Annual Reports


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


  • Animal Production: pasture fertility, grazing - rotational, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, employment opportunities


    On-farm/ranch, rain fed alfalfa production was sustainable for at least four years on selected Coastal Plain soils. Estimated average annual hay yield ranged from 3.8 to 5.2 tons/acre. Net income at $135/ton of 12% moisture hay ranged from $130 to $302/acre/year with two intermediate income sites averaging $236. Continuous grazing of alfalfa in the Udic moisture region of the western Coastal Plain resulted in near complete stand loss in three years. Weight gains of beef cattle in an intensive put-and-take grazing system approximated weight gains of cattle continuously grazing common bermudagrass. Significant reduction of phytotoxic levels of subsoil aluminum using gypsum was not attained in three years. Biochemical analysis of alfalfa samples from these gypsum-treated sites indicated that gypsum and low rates of boron were beneficial for alfalfa growth. Alfalfa protein, hexose, and chlorophyll contents responded inconsistently to the amendment treatments.

    Project objectives:

    Develop a soil amendment and nutrient management plan to enhance establishment and sustainability of alfalfa on acid, Coastal Plain soils.

    Develop multi-option defoliation strategies using hay, silage, green chop, and/or grazing to improve stand survival and sustainability of alfalfa.

    Develop risk assessment models to project economic benefits from alfalfa production on Coastal Plain soils.

    Use a variety of the latest technologies to transfer best management practices to stakeholders in the southern US.

    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.