Alfalfa water relations and irrigation

C. C. Sheaffer, C. B. Tanner, M. B. Kirkham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

28 Scopus citations


Morphological and physiological features allow alfalfa to adapt to a wide range of soil moisture conditions. Alfalfa water use is often considered extravagant, since seasonal evapotranspiration is large compared to other crops, primarily because of long periods of transpiration. This chapter discusses the pathway of water movement, physiological and morphological effects of soil moisture deficits, water requirements for seed and forage production, and irrigation scheduling criteria. Alfalfa nitrogenase activity decreases 85% when plants are subject to a water deficit, but activity recovers to 70% of pre water deficit rates when turgor was restored. Water movement occurs along a water potential or pressure gradient from the soil to the atmosphere through the roots, stems, and leaves. Historically, water requirements have been regarded as lower for seed than for vegetative production. Water use during daytime hours usually constitutes the largest daily proportion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAlfalfa and Alfalfa Improvement
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9780891182221
ISBN (Print)9780891180944
StatePublished - Oct 26 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 677 South Segoe Road, Madison, WI 53711, USA.


  • Alfalfa
  • Crop water requirement
  • Irrigation scheduling
  • Morphological features
  • Physiological effect
  • Water deficit
  • Water movement
  • Water use


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