TRURO, N.S. – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has released a new alfalfa cultivar that will help farmers grow stronger and higher-quality forage.
The new cultivar, dubbed CRS-1001, has recently been licensed commercially, and is on display at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture’s Annual General Meeting held at the Best Western Glengarry in Truro.
“It took a little longer to release this variety, mainly because while they were producing seeds, I wanted to test it on farms,” said Yousef Papadopoulos, the research scientist responsible for the new cultivar.
“On-farm testing is very important, as it can allow us to see the variances between farms, soil and how the variety stacks up in different areas.”
Since 1988, Papadopoulos has been researching and studying how alfalfa cultivars live and grow, trying to perfect and breed a variety that could withstand Nova Scotia’s climate.
“Alfalfa is a good species because it has a very good yield and good quality when it grows,” he said.
“When I came to the Maritimes, I was told we couldn’t grow alfalfa here mainly because it requires good drainage and topsoil, something we struggle with due to our climate.”
Not only will the new variety grow in our climate, but it will last longer than other alfalfa cultivars while also providing better and stronger-quality forage.
“It has a unique ability to develop underground rhizomes from the main plant that will develop into new plants alongside the parent,” said Papadopoulos.
“If the main plant dies, the ones that spread from it will grow and fill the space.”
Due to its deep roots, the new variety has a higher survival rate in flood situations as well as winter weather, which can benefit farmers economically in the long run while also providing better quality hay, silage and forage for animal grazing.
“If a stand the farmer put in died in its second year, it is going to cost him $600 an acre to replant the stand,” said Papadopoulos.
“They also lose a year as the stand has to grow again, and they won’t get the yield from it. If the stand can last an extra year or two, the farmer is saving that much more money each year.”
Currently, there are five farms in Nova Scotia testing the new variety, as well as other locations across the country.
“In the past, our mandate used to be regional, but for breeding and releasing cultivars, regional is not good enough,” he said.
“It has to be well adapted to other areas. Seed companies cannot produce only 500 bags, they need more than that. So I’m making sure the new variety is adapted to areas across the country.”
Quality Seeds Ltd. in Ontario has licensed the new variety for commercial use, and while there are only limited seeds available right now, Papadopoulos expects the seeds to fully hit the market across the country by 2019.
“The bottom line is, I want our farmers to have the best variety of forage that grows for them,” said Papadopoulos.
“They are the real testers.”