Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), also known as
Lucerne, Purple Medic and Trefoil , is a perennial
flowering plant cultivated as an important forage
Alfalfa lives from three to twelve
years, depending on variety and
climate. It is a cool season
perennial legume, growing to a
height of 1 meter. It resembles
clover with clusters of small purple
flowers. It also has a deep root
system sometimes stretching to 4.5
metres. This makes it very
resilient, especially to droughts.
It has a tetraploid genome.
- Alfalfa can be
planted either in the spring or late summer. Spring plantings can be
made after danger of frost. Plantings will begin first in southern
and southeastern Kansas.
- Alfalfa grows
best on deep, well-drained, friable soils. Lands subject to frequent
overflows or high water tables are unfavor-able to alfalfa. The pH
of the soil should be 6.5 or above. Alfalfa is distributed
throughout the United States and Canada.
harvesting involves cutting, moisture reduction, and consolidation
for storing. In the case ofbaled alfalfa hay, this means swathing,
curing, raking, baling, and roadsiding. The goal of alfalfa
harvesting is to cut the alfalfa at the proper growth stage for the
optimum combination of yield and quality and to maintain quality and
m;n;mize losses through rapid curing and timely raking and baling.
- Alfalfa juice
is extracted using two methods, namely: mechanical pressing and
combination of high pulsed electric field pre-treatment and
- The alfalfa
fiber fraction from wet fractionation was pretreated with liquid hot
water (LHW) pretreatment (220°C for 2 min) for extraction and
separation of hemicelluloses and insoluble cellulosic fractions .
Enzymic saccharification of alfalfa fiber, with and with-out LHW
pretreatment, gave high yields of pentoses and hexoses .
- Alfalfa is an
important source of leaf meal used for fortifying baby food and
other special diet foods prepared for human use. Large quantities of
dehydrated alfalfa are also used in manufacturing concentrated feeds
for poultry and livestock.
- Alfalfa is a
rich source of flavonoid antioxidants and phytoestrogens, including
luteolin, coumestrol, and apigenin, which have been identified as
potential nutriceutical products. In addition, genetic engineering
of alfalfa is well established, enabling development of novel
proteins and other co-products.
- Its primary
use is for dairy production, followed by beef, sheep, horses and
goats, but it is sometimes used for human consumption. Alfalfa
sprouts are used as a salad ingredient in the United States and
Australia. Tender shoots are eaten in some places as a leaf
vegetable. Human consumption of older plant parts is limited
primarily by very high fiber content. Dehydrated alfalfa leaf is
commercially available as a dietary supplement in several forms,
such as tablets, powders and tea. Alfalfa is believed to be a
- The total
value of processed alfalfa production in 1999/00 was $67.2 million,
2.5 per cent lower than in 1998/99. This was despite production
(tonnage) increasing by roughly 22 per cent in 1999/00. In short, it
was the lower prices experienced in 1999/00, which triggered the
- About 40% of
alfalfa hay in the United States is produced in the 11 western
states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New
Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
- The US is the
largest alfalfa producer in the world, but alfalfa is important in
Europe, Australia, South America, South Africa, China and the Middle
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