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  • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), also known as Lucerne, Purple Medic and Trefoil , is a perennial flowering plant cultivated as an important forage crop.
  • 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.

Planting and Cultivation

  • 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.
  • Alfalfa 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 mechanical pressing.
  • The alfalfa fiber fraction from wet fractionation was pretreated with liquid hot water (LHW) pretreatment (220C 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 galactagogue


  • 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 downturn.
  • 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 East.

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