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Progress Report on Sainfoin – Alfalfa Mixture Trial

Updated: May 10, 2023

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Collaborators: Dr. Surya Acharya, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge

Location: Fairview Research Farm on RR #35, MD of Fairview

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2014 Annual Report

Sainfoin, a condensed-tannin-containing legume, when present in alfalfa pasture prevents bloat in grazing cattle. Earlier studies have shown that 15% or more sainfoin in an alfalfa mixture can eliminate risk of pasture bloat. However, old sainfoin cultivars do not persist in alfalfa stands for long and in new mixed stands do not regrow at the same rate as alfalfa after cutting or grazing. In pure stands the old cultivars produce less forage yield than alfalfa. At Lethbridge, new sainfoin populations were developed from selections with improved forage yield, re-growth potential and persistence in mixed stands. A multiyear and multi-location study was initiated to determine if these new sainfoin germplasm developed for their ability to survive with alfalfa can perform better than old cultivars in Western Canada. In collaboration with some Applied Research Associations in Alberta, Dr. Acharya is testing some experimental sainfoin lines in alternate row mixtures with an alfalfa variety to evaluate among other attributes: adaptation, growth, persistency, forage yield and quality in parts of Alberta. PCBFA is fortunate to be a part of this collaboration, which started in 2013. The following report provides a progress for 2014 (second year of the trial). The trial will continue for a few more years.


Trial site - Fairview Research Farm (NW5-82-3W6) on RR #35. Prior to seeding in 2013, a smooth seedbed was prepared by cultivating and packing. Credit® was sprayed for pre-seed weed control. The site had a canola variety trial in 2011 but left to fallow in summer of 2012. The site had a pH of 5.4 and 8.8% organic matter.

The forages were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Three experimental sainfoin lines designated LRC05-3900, LRC05-3901, LRC05-3902, and Nova (check) were seeded in the same row mixtures with AC Grazeland alfalfa seeded and fertilized on May 23, 2013 with a Fabro plot drill equipped with double shoot Atom jet openers. Suggested seeding rates are: sainfoin 30 lb/ac, alfalfa 12 lb/ac. As the sainfoin and alfalfa were seeded in the same row mixtures, we seeded at ½ rate; sainfoin at 15 lb/ac and alfalfa at 6 lb/ac. Seeding was 0.5-0.7” deep. Seeds were inoculated. Small plots measuring 1.4 m x 8.5 m were used. Fertility according to soil test was 40 lb/acre of 11-52-0. Assure II and Basagran Forte were used to control volunteer oats, canola and other broad leaf weeds.

In 2014, no fertility was applied but the plots were sprayed on June 6 with Assure II and Basagran Forte to control weeds. Field Measurements and notes in 2014 will (1) winter kill and early season growth assessments, (2) dry matter yield (DM), and (3) percent composition of each forage type. Cutting was done twice, the first on June 23 when the sainfoin was at 40-50 % bloom (alfalfa was at 20-30% bloom), and the second cut was 6 weeks after the first cut.


Forage Dry Matter

The forage DM first cut was similar for all mixtures. The DM for first cut varied from 3114 lb/ac for LRC05-3901 sainfoin/alfalfa mixture to 3685 lb/ac for LRC05-3901 sainfoin/alfalfa mixture (3685 lb/ac). For the second cut, DM appeared to be slightly higher for both mixtures containing LRC05-3901 and LRC05-3902, followed by LRC05-3900/alfalfa mixture and then Nova Sainfoin/alfalfa mixture (check). The total forage DM for the year was highest for LRC05-3902/alfalfa mixture (5158 lb/acre) and lowest for Nova Sainfoin/alfalfa (check, 4553 lb/ac). The difference in DM yield between LRC05-3902/alfalfa and other mixtures was not much. LRC05-3902/alfalfa mixture only had 340 to 605 lb/ac higher DM than other mixtures.

The forage DM was generally higher for first than second cut for all Sainfoin lines and Nova (check). The low DM obtained for second cut was mainly due to slower regrowth/recovery after the first cut as a result of lower rainfall received during the year. The spring moisture played a significant role in the forage DM obtained for first cut.

Proportion of Sainfoin and alfalfa

The proportion of Sainfoin in the mixtures varied significantly between Nova Sainfoin (check) and the 3 new sainfoin lines for both first and second cuts (Table 2). Nova sainfoin consistently had the lowest proportion in each cut (19.7% for first cut and 23.5% for second cut). For the first cut, LRC05-3900 sainfoin line had the highest proportion of Sainfoin in the mixture (39.0%), while for the second cut, LRC05-3902 Sainfoin appeared to have a higher proportion of Sainfoin in the mixture.

The proportion of AC Grazeland alfalfa in the sainfoin/alfalfa mixtures was consistently higher for Nova sainfoin/alfalfa mixture for both first and second cuts.

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