Germplasm variability and environmental effects on stem cellulose and lignin concentrations in Alfalfa

P. M. Schwab, J. F.S. Lamb, C. C. Sheaffer, D. K. Barnes

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5 Scopus citations


Stem cellulose and lignin concentrations are major determining factors of alfalfa (Medicago sativa ssp. sativa L.) forage quality. Only limited information is available on the genetic variability and the influence of environmental effects on these two stem-quality traits. Our objectives were to: evaluate the variability for stem cellulose and lignin concentrations in modern alfalfa germplasms across several harvests; observe the environmental stability of these two quality traits in 32 alfalfa clones selected high or low for either stem cellulose or lignin concentration; and examine the relationships between these two stem-quality traits and leaf and stem crude protein (CP). Fifty alfalfa entries (cultivars and experimental populations) were established May 1993, and sampled for stem acid-detergent lignin (ADL), stem acid-detergent cellulose (ADC), and stem CP on Sep 1993, June and Aug 1994. Clones were vegetatively propagated from individual plants selected for extremes in stem ADL and ADC and transplanted into blocks at two locations in May 1994 and sampled for quality analysis in September 1994. For all samples, leaves were hand-separated from stems and stem ADL, ADC, CP and leaf CP concentration were determined using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Entry differences for stem ADL and ADC were detected only at the June 1994 harvest date in the cultivar study. Spearman's ranked correlations over years in the clonal study demonstrated greater environmental stability for stem ADC (r = 0.70, P ≥ 0.01) than for stem ADL (r = 0.54, P # 0.05). Environmental effects had an impact on both traits, but stem ADC showed greater potential for improving forage quality. Simple correlations showed that decreasing stem ADL or ADC would have minimal effect on leaf CP and may increase stem CP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-392
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Agronomy and Crop Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Alfalfa
  • Forage quality
  • Lucerne
  • Medicago sativa ssp. sativa L.


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