To capitalize on alfalfa’s potential, choose high-yielding varieties with adequate winter hardiness and resistance to problem diseases. These varieties, when properly fertilized and managed, normally persist for 3 or more years. Avoid using nonadapted common seedlots when growing alfalfa as a perennial forage crop.
Over the past 10 years, more than 200 alfalfa varieties or experimental lines have been evaluated in research trials at two locations in the state. A large number of varieties for which adequate data are available have performed satisfactorily in these trials. Results appear in the Forage Trials Report, an annual publication available at Penn State Cooperative Extension county offices.
A limited number of alfalfa varieties have the potential of producing secondary roots and have a spreading growth habit. These varieties are referred to as “creeping” alfalfas. In a humid climate like Pennsylvania’s, however, these varieties have shown growth habits similar to our more typical bunch-type alfalfas and have shown no yield advantage. Multileaved varieties—those developed to have more than three leaflets per leaf—have not shown consistently improved quality or yield over traditional varieties. Select varieties based on disease resistance, winter hardiness, and yield, not because they are multileafs.