Everything you need to know about growing alfalfa

Today we are going to talk about the cultivation of alfalfa around the world. Its origin takes place in Asia Minor and the southern Caucasus. It covers countries such as Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The diffusion of this crop was carried out by the Arabs through North Africa and, thus, it was how it reached Spain and spread throughout the rest of Europe.

In this article we are going to talk about the cultivation of alfalfa, what are its main uses and the economic importance it has.




It was the Persians who introduced alfalfa to Greece. From here it went to Italy in the XNUMXth century BC. It is a plant that belongs to the legume family. Its scientific name is Medicago sativa. It is a plant with evergreen leaves, erect and quite lively. It has a long, robust and pivoting main root. If the conditions are good, they can be roots up to 5 meters long. From the main root is where the rest of the secondary roots are divided.

It has a crown that protrudes from the ground and is where the shoots that form the stems emerge from. These are thin and erect and can perfectly support the weight of the leaves and inflorescences throughout the year. Although they are thin, they are quite consistent. This makes it a perfect plant for mowing.

As for its leaves, they are trifoliate. The first leaves that are possessed are uniform. It is afterwards that they are fully developed. The margins of the leaves are completely smooth with slightly serrated upper edges. It has flowers that are blue or purple, with inflorescences in clusters that are born from the axils of the leaves.

The fruit is a legume that has no thorns and has between 2 and 6 yellowish seeds.

Economic importance of alfalfa

alfalfa seeds

alfalfa seeds

Alfalfa is of great importance worldwide. It is a very widespread crop in all countries with a temperate climate. Intensive livestock farming is the one that regularly demands the food that the industry has had to provide. This is how alfalfa has been grown. The main objective of this plant is to supply the feed industry.

The importance of alfalfa is that it is a natural source of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals that serves as food for animals. It also serves for its contribution to having a more beautiful landscape and for being useful as a conservation of fauna by creating ecosystems suitable for them. If alfalfa is grown in soil, it helps reduce symbiotic nitrogen fixation by requiring less energy. This comes in handy to let the soil “rest” both for that same crop and for those who come after it.

Its cultivation also helps reduce erosion and the appearance of certain pests and diseases. in crops that follow in rotation.

Alfalfa requirements

medicago sativa

Medicago sativa

We are going to analyze the edaphoclimatic factors that alfalfa needs to have a good harvest and a good development. The first thing is solar radiation. Sun exposure is a very important factor. It positively influences the cultivation of alfalfa, since the number of hours of solar radiation increases as the latitude of the region decreases. This solar radiation favors the pre-drying technique in the field in the regions that are closest to the equator. On the other hand, as we approach more northern latitudes, the solar radiation itself, being less, makes it difficult for crops to dry.

Alfalfa seed germinates at temperatures between 2 and 3 degrees. This happens if other environmental conditions allow it. If the temperature is increased, the germination will be faster. Although it can germinate between 2 and 3 degrees, for optimal development, the temperature should be around 28 and 30 degrees. On the contrary, if the temperatures continue to rise until they reach values ​​above 38 degrees, it can be deadly for the seedlings.

When winter begins, they stop growth until spring again. When temperatures begin to increase and the hours of sunshine increase, it is when they sprout again and continue to grow. There are some varieties of alfalfa capable of tolerating really low temperatures down to -10 degrees. These varieties are interesting to grow in areas of northern latitude. The average annual temperatures to be able to produce forage is around 15 degrees. According to each variety of alfalfa, the optimum temperature for all of them is between 18 and 28 degrees.

pH and salinity

Alfalfa cultivation

alfalfa cultivation

Now let’s talk about pH. It is one of the most limiting factors in the cultivation of alfalfa. The acidity of the soil can be disastrous. The optimal pH for the crop is usually around 7,2. You can use some liming in which the pH drops to 6,8. These limes are more appropriate to increase the amount of calcium ions in the soil and make them available for the plant to use. In this way, it also reduces the absorption of aluminum and manganese, which are toxic for the crop.

Regarding salinity, it is quite sensitive to saline soils. The first symptom that a soil is saline or is affecting it is the paleness with which some tissues are seen. It is followed by other symptoms such as a decrease in the size of the leaves and, the more severe it is, vegetative growth is stopped completely. All this happens because salinity is what induces imbalances between the root and the aerial part of the plant.

It is not a very demanding plant with the soil. You only need deep soils that are well drained. It does not support waterlogging. It is cultivated in a great variety of soils. Soils that are not less than 60 cm deep are not at all advisable for cultivation.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about alfalfa.

Everything you need to know about growing alfalfa

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