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USDA’s NIFA Announces Support for Increasing Alfalfa Productivity

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced support for the Alfalfa Forage and Research Program (AFRP). This program funds research and extension programs that improve alfalfa forage, seed yields, and helps producers apply best practices.

“Alfalfa research helps ensure there are dependable and affordable supplies of forage available for dairy and other livestock producers around the country,” said NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy. “This crop is also a part of conservation production systems that help protect fields from water erosion and provide a natural supply of nitrogen to the soil for use by other crops.”

The Alfalfa and Forage Research Program (AFRP) supports integrated, collaborative research and technology transfer to improve the efficiency and sustainability of conventional and organic forage production systems. The program encourages projects that establish multi-disciplinary networks to address priority national or regional science needs of the alfalfa industry. By bringing together expertise from multiple organizations and states, these projects will have greater impact and enhance the effectiveness of limited state, federal and industry resources.

The goals of AFRP are to increase alfalfa yields and quality; improve harvest and storage systems; develop methods to estimate forage yield and quality to support marketing and reduce producer risks; and explore new and novel uses for alfalfa.

There is approximately $2.1 million in available funding to support AFRP. The deadline for applications is April 18, 2018, 5 p.m. Eastern time. See the funding opportunity for details.

Past projects include a University of Arizona project that is developing economic thresholds for integrated pest management practices that aim to limit the destruction caused by the blue alfalfa aphid (BAA). The team has had success in finding multiple effective insecticides, including one that is a bioinsecticide that significantly improves alfalfa yield. In addition, the work of the team has helped in gathering data to assist in the registration of a new selective herbicide, Sivanto. Another project from Virginia Tech explored ways to produce premium quality hay in a high rainfall environment in addition to extension materials and opportunities to learn about alfalfa production methods. The team tested the potential of using propionic acid and lower humidity to decrease mold development, finding propionic acid applications to not be effective while humidity less than 15% is. In addition, the team organized a mid-Atlantic regional alfalfa educational program to be held February 2018, and developed a public clearinghouse (link is external) on alfalfa production.

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension that solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit


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