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2016-004: Performance and Characterization of Low-lignin Alfalfa in Monoculture and Binary Mixtures

Researcher: Bart Lardner

Funding: $15,000

Lignin in alfalfa provides strength and rigidity so that they plan can stand upright. However, as the alfalfa plant matures, the lignin also increases in its cell walls. This leads to a decrease in feeding value, even though it only comprises 7-8% of the plant as it binds with other fiber components. Therefore, varieties such as Hi-Gest alfalfa, which was bred with a reduced amount of lignin, has shown to have improved fibre digestibility and feed intake.
As this variety was developed outside Saskatchewan, the objective of this study was to determine the forage value of Hi Gest for beef cattle when compared to convential alfalfa in monoculture and binary mixtures at differing maturity stages in black and brown soils zones.


In order to evaluate the new low-lignin alfalfa Hi-Gest 360 in Saskatchewan, it was grown (1) in a monoculture and (2) with AC Success hybrid bromegrass on sites near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Lanigan, Saskatchewan. AC Grazeland, one of the most adapted alfalfa grown in western Canada was used to compare against Hi-Gest 360.

This research confirmed that there is an advantage for producers using the low-lignin alfalfa Hi-Gest. The improved quality may lengthen potential harvest periods to two weeks, resulting in fewer cuttings in a growing season yet gaining higher forage quality with the same tonnage, therefore lowering harvest costs.
Hi-Gest 360 established well, showed good nutritive value, though the stand establishment costs were higher for Hi-Gest 360. As more seed becomes available, it is expected that those costs would decrease.

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