Optimising Resources – Alfalfa

Newsletter No. 62 - Item 3

Any discussion on feed ingredients and optimising the use of resources has to include the important role of Alfalfa. At a time when there are concerns regarding world shortages of water, Table 1 shows comparison in water use efficiencies of several crops. The table illustrates how the complete alfalfa plant [100%] provides productive nutrients. Productive ostrich grower/finisher rations contain as much as 40% alfalfa, provided the alfalfa is of the right quality. Quality alfalfa provides a unique blend of nutrients in a highly digestible form, when fed as part of a correctly balanced ration.

Water Efficiency Comparisons

Table 1 Water Efficiency Comparisons [source:Alfalfa Wildlife and the Environment, UC Davis]

Figure 1 demonstrates the deep roots of Alfalfa by comparison to Corn. Alfalfa roots go as deep as 3-5 meters (9-16ft). This ensures that very little irrigation water is lost.

Alfalfa Root

Figure 1 - Comparative Root Depths [source: Alfalfa Wildlife and the Environment, UC Davis]

The following are a few other areas where the extensive roots of Alfalfa provides environmental benefits:

- Prevents Erosion
- Encourages water infiltration
- Biological activity within the soil
- Improved nutrient cycling
- Improvement in water use efficiency in some following crops

Further benefits of Alfalfa to soil health :

- Reduced Cultivation over grain crops
- Reduced Runoff
- Weed Suppression
- Low Pesticide Use
- Alfalfa 'Rhuzophere'
- Improved Soil tilth
- Provision of N to subsequent crops
- Reduction in energy needs in food production
- Important part of sustainable cropping systems
- Enriches Wildlife Habitat
- Incredible Insectary
- Help Solves Environment Problems

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