DOI: 10.1139/cjps-2023-0088 ISSN: 0008-4220

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) quality is improved from tractor traffic implemented during harvest

Eric Rechel, David Miller, Rick Ott
  • Horticulture
  • Plant Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

Studies documenting the consequences of harvest traffic in alfalfa production have addressed soil and plant growth parameters. One response was larger leaf/stem ratios in plants that were trafficked which suggests higher quality. To fully understand how harvest traffic affects alfalfa quality a need for further analysis is warranted. Our objectives were to quantify differences in plant quality between trafficked and non-trafficked plants through four years of alfalfa production and to determine when these differences occur. The experimental units were furrow-irrigated raised beds with four harvests per year in Youngston clay loam soil in Fruita, Colorado. A John Deere 2280 swather and a John Deere 2955 tractor, driven over the alfalfa seven days after swathing, were used to create four traffic treatments; plants that were never trafficked, plants trafficked only by the swather, plants trafficked only by the tractor, and plants trafficked by both the swather and the tractor. Quality was determined by measuring relative feed value, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, and crude protein using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Alfalfa trafficked by the tractor had increased quality throughout the four years of production.

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