Learn about Alfalfa planting, tillage, irrigation, economics, pests, disease, and weeds.


Irrigated Alfalfa Variety Performance

Alfalfa is the most important crop in Utah, both in terms of acreage and revenue. Although often overlooked, one of the most critical decisions made in alfalfa production is determining which variety to plant. This report summarizes dry matter (DM) yields of alfalfa varieties during 4 years at the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Greenville Farm in North Logan (Cache Co.).

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The Ten Most Common Mistakes in Using No-Till

Interest in no-till (NT) crop production practices has increased greatly among Utah farmers and ranchers in recent years. The primary benefits of implementing a cropping system with little or no tillage includes improved soil quality (improved soil moisture retention, improved soil structure, greater nutrient cycling, and increased soil organic matter) and increased economic profitability (reduced labor, equipment costs, and fuel). Although new to many Utah growers, NT has been successfully utilized by producers across the U.S. for many years.

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4R’s of Irrigation Management

The research community and fertilizer industry have developed and utilized a framework termed “4R nutrient management” to help improve fertilizer stewardship. For decades, national and international organizations and institutes such as The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) have worked diligently to promote the research and use of fertilizer 4R’s.

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Defense Against Drought

Utah’s climate can often be harsh and unpredictable. As the nation’s second driest state, Utah is commonly subject to droughts. Extensive statewide droughts have often lasted 5 to 6 years. It is imperative that farmers are well prepared to defend against drought to minimize risk and losses.

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Economic Feasibility of Solar Photovoltaic Irrigation Systems

The Great Basin is primarily located in Nevada, western Utah, and small sections of southern Oregon and Idaho. The Great Basin is noted for its arid conditions and high percentage of publically owned land. The potential for solar energy generation in the Great Basin is vast.

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Water Rights in Utah

If you are connected to a municipal system, your water is probably categorized as “culinary or municipal water” and is used for everything from drinking and bathing to washing the car to watering tomatoes. However the Utah Division of Water Rights takes a more itemized approach to water use when applied outside of a municipal system.

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Irrigation Canal Lining?

Irrigation canals placed in native soil or lined with earth can have seepage water losses varying from 20 percent to more than 50 percent. Well designed, new compacted earth lined canals can have reduced seepage losses similar to concrete lined channels. However, consistent and regular maintenance is required to keep seepage losses low.

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Energy Conservation with Irrigation Water Management

Irrigators in Utah experienced rapidly increasing energy costs from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s. These costs remain relatively high. Those who are pumping from deep wells are particularly interested in ways to cut back on energy use without doing away with profitability or production.

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How Good is Your Water Measurement?

Accurate water measurement is essential to maintaining equity of water delivery within an irrigation company or water districts. Good management of our scarce water resource is dependent upon quantifying supplies and uses with accurate measurement techniques. State water rights adjudication and management procedures often require installation of water measurement devices and keeping records of flows.

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Crop Specific



Pocket Gopher Management in Alfalfa Fields

Valley pocket gophers (Thomomys bottae) are a common agricultural pest in many areas of Utah, Nevada and California. Pocket gophers predominantly eat roots, although they will pull vegetation into their burrows, and eat plants immediately adjacent to their burrow holes. Unlike other fossorial rodents (rodents that live under the ground), pocket gophers are active year round throughout much of their distribution.

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Alfalfa Stem Nematode

Alfalfa Stem Nematode (ASN) is a nearly microscopic round worm that enters the alfalfa plant and lives in the stems and leaves, usually above ground. Under ideal conditions (wet weather in late winter or early spring, at 59-70°F), ASN can complete its life cycle from egg to reproducing adult in 19-23 days. A single ASN female, after mating with a male, can produce 200-500 eggs during its reproductive life. ASN can parasitize and persist on a number of host plant species, but can only reproduce in alfalfa and sainfoin. ASN can undergo anhydrobiosis, a state of drying to near death, and persist in plant debris, on seeds, or in dry soil for a very long time.

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Aphids in alfalfa

Aphids belong in the order Hemiptera and family Aphididae. Aphids are common insects in field and forage crops, with at least six kinds in Utah alfalfa. Aphids can be distinguished from other insects in alfalfa with a hand lens. In general, aphids are soft-bodied and pear-shaped, with adults ranging from 1/16 - 1/4″ in length.

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Alfalfa Weevil

The alfalfa weevil is a major pest throughout Utah. It is a beetle with one generation per year. Eggs hatch in the spring, and the grub-like immature weevils (larvae) feed by chewing on the alfalfa foliage. In high numbers, alfalfa weevils can cause severe damage to Utah alfalfa. In any given year, however, the weevils are few enough in number in many fields to cause only minor damage.

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Pesticide Toxicity and Formulation

Pesticides are substances that control unwanted organisms. A pesticide can be used to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. Common pest organisms include insects, plants, fungi, bacteria, plant-parasitic nematodes, viruses, snails and slugs, and nuisance vertebrate animals. Risks of pesticide exposure to humans, other nontarget species, and the environment are primarily influenced by a pesticide’s toxicity and formulation.

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Grasshoppers are among the most conspicuous insects in Utah, and are viewed by many as also among the most injurious to our crops and rangelands. In any given year, thousands of acres may be sprayed throughout the state to reduce potential damage. While at times grasshoppers may inflict intolerable loss, we must recognize that only a few species cause economic damage. We must also understand that because outbreaks can occur simultaneously across the landscape, suppression programs may be successful only when they are wellplanned and carried out over large acreages.

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Boom Sprayer Calibration for Pesticide Applications

To protect your investment in agricultural pesticides, a boom sprayer should be calibrated at the start of the season and whenever application conditions change. Also, sprayer output should be periodically checked throughout the season to assure proper application rate. Although boom sprayers are calibrated in a variety of ways, each method utilizes the measurements of nozzle flow rate and equipment travel speed.

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Downy Mildew of Alfalfa

Downy mildew is an obligate parasite. Even though they look like fungi they are not. They belong to the Oomycota and are more closely related to algae than true fungi. The most common alfalfa downy mildew species in the USA is Peronospora trifoliorum. In Utah, we found P. aestivalis, a species more common in Europe and Asia.

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Noxious Weed Field Guide for Utah

Invasive noxious weeds have been described as a raging biological wildfire – out of control, spreading rapidly, and causing enormous economic losses. Millions of acres in North America have been invaded or are at risk of being invaded by weeds, including cropland, pastures, rangelands, forests, wilderness areas, national parks, recreation sites, wildlife management areas, transportation corridors, waterways, wetlands, parks, golf courses, even yards and gardens. Noxious weeds are capable of spreading at rates of up to 60% annually.

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Fortifying Farms and Ranches Againgst Weed Invasion

The problem with newly introduced weeds is that they are often more aggressive, persistent, harmful, and more difficult to control than those historically managed. Any farm or ranch in the western U.S. has at least a few weeds that have come from other places that are now having a negative impact on profitability. Regardless of the number of weeds that currently infest a farm or ranch, there are literally hundreds of new weeds in neighboring farms, towns, counties, states, and even countries that threaten to gain entry.

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