Reduced lignin alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) cultivars have the potential to increase the feeding value of alfalfa for livestock by improving forage fiber digestibility and to increase harvest management fl flexibility. The objectives were to compare the forage accumulation and nutritive value of reduced lignin and reference alfalfa cultivars when subject to diverse cutting treatments in the establishment and first production year. Research was established in 2015 at four locations in Minnesota. Reference alfalfa cultivars 54R02, DKA43–22RR, WL 355.RR, and the reduced lignin cultivar 54HVX41 were subject to cutting treatments with variable intervals between harvests. Cultivar by cutting treatment interactions were not significant (P > 0.05), but cultivar and cutting treatment effects were significant. Cultivars did not consistently differ in forage accumulation. Establishment year forage accumulation was greater when a fall harvest was taken, and first production year forage accumulation was generally greatest when alfalfa was harvested on a 40-d cutting schedule. Compared to reference alfalfa cultivars, 54HVX41 had an average of 8% less acid detergent lignin (ADL) and 10% greater neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) but was similar in crude protein (CP) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentrations. Cutting treatments with shorter harvest intervals increased forage CP and NDFD and decreased NDF and ADL concentrations. With a 5-d harvest delay, 54HVX41 harvested on a 35-d harvest interval had a 21% gain in forage mass and a 3% reduction in relative forage quality (RFQ) compared to reference cultivars harvested on a 30-d harvest interval, which could allow for increased management flexibility.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by the Midwest Forage Association through a grant sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
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