Alfalfa

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Abstract

Cultivated alfalfa (Medicago sativa L., 2n = 4x = 32), often called “Queen of the forages” (Barnes et al. 1988), is a tetraploid perennial, open pollinated legume with polysomic inheritance. Native to the Middle East, alfalfa belongs to the M. sativa–falcata complex, where interfertile diploid and tetraploid forms coexist (Quiros and Bauchan, 1988). In modern agricultural production systems, alfalfa can be harvested for up to 4–5 years before the stand deteriorates, although rotation to other crops after 2–3 years is common. In northern areas, seeding can be performed in spring or early autumn; autumn seedings are most common in southern production regions. Recommended seeding rates are very variable across locations and soil types, typically from 10 to 25 kg ha–1 in pure stand.