Wisconsin ranks third in the production of green peas for processing in the United States, following Minnesota and Washington state. Preliminary data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service for the1998 growing season indicates that Wisconsin harvested 53,600 acres yielding over 92,000 tons. This represents 20% of the total amount harvested that year. Crop value was $237 per ton for a total value of $21.8 million. A small amount of peas are grown by market gardeners for fresh consumption however, this acreage is inconsequential when assessing pea production in the state.
Crop Profile for Alfalfa in Tennessee
Production Facts: Tennessee ranks 31st of 42 states producing alfalfa.
Tennessee produces less than one percent of the total alfalfa produced within the United States.
Producers harvested 30,000 acres of alfalfa during 2003, yielding approximately 3.1 tons per acre for the season. In 2004, acreage was valued at $117 per ton with an approximate state value of $10,881,000 for the season. Pricing during 2003 ranged from $105 to 120 per ton. Acreage harvested for 2004 has been estimated at 25,000 acres. Warm weather and timely rain showers resulted in an average number of cuttings per field for 2003 of two and a half cuttings per acre for the season. Newly established areas in alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures was approximately 4,000 acres for 2004. The majority of alfalfa produced is used for dairy cattle with the remainder for horses.
Annual production costs are approximately $38.00 after subtracting $165 value of a partial crop during the establishment year. Total production cost of $278 for a four year stand.
Crop Profile for Alfalfa and Other Hay Production in South Dakota
General Production Information
During 2000, South Dakota ranked third in the nation in production of alfalfa hay, producing approximately 5.4 million tons of alfalfa hay. Only California, with approximately 7.1 million tons and Minnesota, with 5.6 million tons, had greater alfalfa hay production than South Dakota during 2000. South Dakota ranked second in 1999 (6.7 million pounds).
During 2000, South Dakota ranked third in the nation in all hay production, with approximately 7.4 million tons of hay produced. This ranking is behind Texas and California in total hay production. Texas produced 8.9 million tons of all types of hay during 2000.
South Dakota ranked twelfth in the U.S. in hay production other than alfalfa hay during 2000.
Alfalfa is grown for hay on a statewide basis. Of the nine crop reporting districts in South Dakota, Agricultural Statistics Service data shows that all districts, with the exception of the Southwest, show harvested alfalfa acreage of greater than or equal to 225,000 acres.
Statewide harvested acres of alfalfa hay are greatest in the Northwest District, with 506,000 acres harvested in 2000. The West Central District (384,000 harvested acres) and the North Central District (354,000 harvested acres) are also significant production areas.
Statewide total harvested acres of alfalfa hay were 2.65 million acres in 2000, up from 2.4 million in both 1998 and 1999.
Average statewide yield was 2.05 tons of alfalfa hay per acre in 2000, which was a decrease from the 2.8 tons per acre average yield in 1999. Highest production per acre is in Northeast South Dakota, with production averages of 3.04 tons per acre in 2000. The Southeast district led production in 1999, with 3.91 tons per acre.
Production acreage of hay crops other than alfalfa is greatest in the Central, South Central and North Central areas of the state, with greater than 638,000 acres harvested for hay in these combined districts.
Statewide average yield per acre for other hay production was 1.40 tons per acre during 2000, with a range of average production per acre from a high of 1.87 tons per acre in the North Central to 1.08 tons per acre in the South Central.
Primary pests of alfalfa and other hay production in the state include alfalfa weevil, grasshoppers, perennial broadleaf weeds, and pocket gophers.
Average price received for alfalfa hay was $70.00 per ton in July, 2001, up $11.00 per ton from 2000 prices. Average price received for other hay was $45.00 per ton in 2000, up from $35/ton in 1999.
Total cash receipts from the sale of all hay in South Dakota during 1999 was $111,935,000. This total represented 2.6% of the total farm cash receipts for the year.
HISTORY OF ALFALFA IN CALIFORNIA
Although the first recorded attempt to cultivate alfalfa as a crop in the US was in Georgia in 1736, this and other subsequent eastern colonial efforts were largely unsuccessful (Oakley and Westover, 1922; Barnes et al., 1988). Contrary to the pathway of many crops which were important in the East and then moved west, alfalfa gained its first important foothold in the US in California and other western states of the expanding nation in the 19th Century.
Alfalfa had been introduced to Spain by the Moorish invasions of the Eighth Century, and was closely tied with the horse culture of the Iberian peninsula, and thereby military power. Due to this linkage, alfalfa likely accompanied the Spanish colonial expeditions to South America and Mexico in the 16th Century, and is thought to have been introduced into present-day Southwestern US by early Spanish expeditions. However, there is no record of these introductions, and the important introductions of alfalfa into California and the United States came during the Gold Rush around 1850 (Barnes et al., 1988).
California agriculture prior to the
1850s consisted of sleepy rancheros with the predominant economic products being
cattle hides and tallow for shipment to eastern ports, Mexico, and South
America. Boston, with its shoe industry, was a major recipient. Some Missions
had by this time a long history of irrigation of row crops and vines on a small
scale, but these were later replaced by the Mexican and American rancheros.
Previously, the Native American people of California had represented about 1/3
of the Indian population of the continental US before Spanish contact. However,
these peoples were largely non-agricultural, unlike their brethren from the East
and Southwest. There is no reference to alfalfa being grown in California much
before the 1850s.
Hay schooners were a common sight on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers during the early years of hay production in the Central Valley of California. Hay was shipped to the San Francisco Bay area, Petaluma and even via larger ships to the East Coast.
Gold! The Gold Rush greatly altered the structure of California agriculture. In 1849, the non-native population was 26,000, and by the end of the year was 115,00 and by 1852 was 225,000. The price of cattle rose from under $4/head to over $500/head during the gold rush, leveling off at $50-150/head in the 1850s. A series of droughts and floods hastened the transition from range cattle to hay/forage production in the decades after the Gold Rush. In 1861-62, floods reportedly created a runoff lake estimated to be 250-300 miles long and 20-60 miles wide in the Central Valley. A great drought in the 1860s killed many animals, and reduced herd size 5-fold. During this period, cattle ranchers were learning that irrigated forage production might lend some stability to this volatile enterprise.
Plant Introductions. While exact dates are unknown, the first alfalfa seed probably entered California from South America between 1847 and 1850 (Hendry, 1926). The earliest references to alfalfa were in the California Farmer in 1855, where it was noted that alfalfa was grown on the lawn of home of a Captain Walsh in Benicia, a former capital of the State of California. It is not likely that seed came from eastern sources, since there is no reference to lucerne (its common name in the east) before this time. By the late 1850s, the Sacramento Union states that alfalfa was becoming popular among California stockmen (Nov. 26, 1858). In the same year, the US Minister to Chile reported that alfalfa had been cultivated in Chile for more than 20 years and promoted the crop to California stockmen (Clark and Kennedy, 1926).
Irrigation. Alfalfa was one of the first crops to be grown under irrigation in California. It was a natural fit with the livestock and the growing dairy industry. It was a faster source of income than grapes, and the income was spread over the season. While non-irrigated wheat was dependent upon far away markets, questionable brokers, huge price swings, and the vagaries of the weather, there was always a steady, more local demand for alfalfa hay. In Yolo County, near Davis (then called Davisville), alfalfa was the major irrigated crop in the 1870s (Larkey and Walters, 1987), after large scale irrigation was introduced in the 1850s. The first dams and water systems were temporary and typically had to be rebuilt after each winter rain. Later, more permanent systems made alfalfa, vine, and tree fruit production possible. The first system in Yolo County, "James Moore’s ditch", for example, was built in 1854, widened and lengthened in 1864 until it irrigated nearly 15,000 acres of alfalfa and about 300 acres of grapevines, the major irrigated crops in the county (Larkey and Walters, 1987).
Hay production in California increased from about 2,000 tons in 1850 to 550,000 tons in 1870 (Jelinek, 1979). This was accompanied by a rapid rise of population (560,247 by 1870), a switch from range to improved beef cattle, and a rise in dairying, primarily around San Francisco Bay, Humboldt County, Petaluma in northern California, and Los Angeles in Southern California. The Bonanza Wheat Era (1873-1902), which saw California wheat production rise to second place nationwide (behind only Minnesota), did not diminish the role of alfalfa, which slowly rose in importance during this period with the development of irrigation.
Alfalfa- A traded Crop. The
availability of river transportation and the new rail lines greatly enhanced the
viability of alfalfa as a cash crop in California, and alfalfa was a traded
commodity from the earliest periods. After all, the transportation system was
largely hay-powered, along with steam, water and rail. The San Joaquin and
Sacramento Rivers provided a water highway from the agricultural areas of the
Central Valley to the growing population centers of San Francisco and other
coastal regions, where dairy farming developed. In southern California, alfalfa
hay was raised in the deserts around Los Angeles, as well as the San Diego
region, and was the key first crop in the newly irrigated areas of the Imperial
Hand loading hay bales for river transport in the Central Valley.
It may surprise some that by the turn of the century, alfalfa acreage east of the Mississippi River accounted for only 1% of the total US production (Oakley and Westover, 1922), with about 90% west of the Missouri River (Clark and Kennedy, 1926). In the 1920s, the leading alfalfa states were Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, California, and Idaho, and the average yield for the US was about 2.2 tons/acre (Oakley and Westover, 1922). Introduction and spread of ‘Grimm’ and other winter hardy cultivars hastened the development of alfalfa for northern and eastern states in subsequent years.
California production of alfalfa rose from 484,000 acres in 1909 to almost 795,000 in 1929, by which time the pattern of California alfalfa production and acreage was set. The counties in California with greatest production were Tulare, Fresno, Merced, and Stanislaus in the San Joaquin Valley, which today remains the major production zone in the State. Imperial Valley developed alfalfa as the first major irrigated crop in the area, but lack of proximity of markets was limiting factor. However, the development of good highways, rail links and expanded irrigation increased Imperial’s importance in alfalfa production. In 1919, Imperial produced only 4.0% of the total California tonnage, while in 1929, it produced 11.5% (Braun, 1931), and today produces well over 25% of the state’s production. A process of conversion of alfalfa acreage to higher-value specialty crops (e.g. grapes), has always been a factor in California alfalfa production. This, in addition to high water costs and urban sprawl has limited the acreage since the 1970s. Acreage peaked at about 1.2 million acres in the 1970s, and today is between 900,000 and 950,000 acres.
Twentieth Century Progress. Since
the early 1920s, alfalfa yields per acre have increased about two-fold in
California (Figure 1). This amounts to an average increase of approximately ˝
ton each decade. Unlike many crops which have increased yields in the Twentieth
Century, we do not see evidence of a "yield plateau" in California alfalfa
yields; yields appear to be continuing to increase (Fig.1). This progress is due
to a number of factors, including improved varieties, better land preparation,
better water distribution systems, improved fertility, superior harvesting
methods, and overall improved management. It should also be pointed out that
shifts of production from lower-yielding areas to the Imperial Valley, which
averages over 8 tons/acre has also been a factor.
Hay transportation on Crenshaw Avenue, Los Angeles County, circa 1920's, currently part of South Central Los Angeles.
In the past twenty five years,
evaluation of forage quality has been a significant factor. Petaluma Hay
Analysis in Petaluma, CA, just north of San Francisco has shown a gradual
increase in quality of the samples they receive from about 53% TDN to about
54.5% TDN (90% dm, Fig. 1). Growers have modified their cutting schedules and
production practices to try to meed the demands of dairy producers for higher
energy, higher protein hay. It should also be pointed out that the behavior of
growers in only trying to test those hays which are likely to give good values
may also be a factor in the apparent increase in forage quality over the past 25
Figure 1. Changes in alfalfa yield (top) and quality (bottom) in California. Yield data from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Forage quality data is expressed as Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), which is calculated either from MCF or ADF. Data from Petaluma Hay Analysis, average of all cuttings, mostly Intermountain and Sacramento Valley hays.
Improved varieties played a vital role improving yield. In the 1920s, there were only five groups known to researchers mostly by their country of origin, in addition to the "commons" (California Common, Kansas Common, etc.- Fig. 2). So few difficulties were seen with alfalfa prior to the 1920s, that very little research effort was expended on alfalfa (Tufts et al., 1946), but that soon changed as breeders discovered that they could select for improved performance and disease resisitance, beginning with Bacterial Wilt. By the 1950s, a greater number of strains were available in California, mostly USDA and Experiment Station selections from the common types and plant introductions. In 1953, the Certified Alfalfa Seed Council, distinguished sponsors of this Symposium, launched educational programs to promote the use of alfalfa and the communicate importance of improved certified alfalfa seed. In 1954, Caliverde, a Bacterial Wilt resistant selection from California Common was released by Dr. Ernie Stanford at UC, and in the same year Lahanton was released by both California and Nevada, a variety developed by Dr. Oliver Smith at Reno. Lahontan proved to be resistant to Bacterial Wilt and Stem Nematode, but not Root Knot Nematode, and later was found to be resistant to Spotted Alfalfa Aphid and Phytophthora root Rot.
CURRENT IMPORTANCE OF ALFALFA
Alfalfa is the second most important revenue-producing field crop in California, behind cotton, and the third-most important crop overall (behind grapes and cotton), and the seventh-ranked agricultural enterprise in California (Table 1). Alfalfa is the major feedstock for the state’s nearly $3 billion/year dairy industry, and an important part of the $1.4 billion/year cattle industry. When taken as an interdependent whole, the forage-cattle-dairy industry is unquestionable the most important agricultural sector in California, and alfalfa is the primary forage, especially for dairy.