Alfalfa Stem Cell Wall Digestibility: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions

Krishna B. Bhandari, Hannah L. Rusch, Jo D Heuschele

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is considered as the most important forage legume with high biomass yield and nutritional quality for ruminants. The alfalfa leaf cell walls are highly digestible, but stem cell walls of alfalfa are not readily digestible. The cell wall component of alfalfa has a large source of dietary energy, but ruminant animals can digest less than half of this component due to the presence of high lignin content. The main goal of this review is to make a summary of existing knowledge of alfalfa cell wall thickening and lignification patterns and suggest future directions for improving alfalfa stem cell wall digestibility. We describe alfalfa cell wall biochemistry, alfalfa stem morphology, stem tissue degradation, and existing methods to improve alfalfa digestibility, and discuss the potential future strategies for improving alfalfa cell wall digestibility. Information on these will help alfalfa breeders and producers identify superior alfalfa cultivars with improved stem cell wall digestibility. Concentrating future efforts on the selection and identification of traits and associated genes that affect cell wall digestibility could improve alfalfa cell wall digestibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2875
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • alfalfa digestibility
  • forage quality
  • lignification
  • reduced-lignin alfalfa
  • stem cell wall


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