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CitationBerdahl, J. D., Wilton, A. C., Lorenz, R. J., & Frank, A. B. (1986). Alfalfa survival and vigor in rangeland grazed by sheep. Journal of Range Management, 39(1), 59-62.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalJournal of Range Management
AbstractFew detailed comparisons have been made among alfalfa (Medicago spp.) cultivars and strains grazed in semiarid, rangeland environments. The objective of this study was to determine survival and vigor of alfalfa cultivars and experimental strains that were grown in association with rangeland grasses and grazed by sheep for 3 seasons. Three-month old seedlings of 5 cultivars and 6 experimental strains of winterhardy alfalfa were transplanted in June 1979 into grass sod on 0.9-m centers at a hillside site with a west-facing 16% slope and Amor loam (Typic Haploboroll) soil. Dominant vegetation was western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) Löve. Syn: Agropyron smithii (Rydb.)], blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag.], and smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.). For 3 seasons after the establishment year, each replicate was grazed in sequence for 2 weeks at a stocking rate of 48 yearling ewes/ha during summer and then mowed to a height of 10 cm in September. Only 5 of the 11 entries had greater than 50% survival after the third season. Three germplasm pools derived from local alfalfa plantings that had persisted more than 50 years in association with rangeland grasses were highest in survival, ranging from 72-74%. Drylander and Roamer, 2 cultivars developed primarily for grazing in semiarid regions of western Canada, had 65 and 62% survival, respectively. Phenotypic variability found among surviving plants in this study will permit further genetic improvements in alfalfa for rangeland.