May 10 2021 08:00 AM

Sponsored content created and provided by Parker Heise, Account Manager, NEXGROW® alfalfa and Emily Meccage, Senior Technical Support Specialist, Forage Genetics International

Second in a two-part series. Read part one here.

In our first article, we described the value of harvesting a plant with a full “gas tank,” or one with readily available root carbohydrates to support regrowth. These plants are better able to initiate that new regrowth from crown buds post-harvest. But beyond the plant’s ability to regrow, what impact does a later cut of HarvXtra® with Roundup Ready® Technology alfalfa have on quality, persistence, and the dreaded winterkill?

Yes, less mature alfalfa has a higher percentage of nutrients, energy, protein, and so forth because it has a higher leaf-to-stem ratio, which contributes to higher overall forage quality. But the long-term implications of this approach should be considered. Research has found that with extended cut of HarvXtra alfalfa, we see quicker regrowth in those plots because of higher energy reserves compared to alfalfa harvested at shorter intervals. That faster regrowth adds up over time.

Figure 1. These pictures are side-by-side comparisons of the same variety harvested on different cutting schedules. The picture on the left shows the recovery after the fourth cutting of alfalfa harvested on a 28-day cutting schedule. The picture on the right shows alfalfa regrowth after cut three on a 38-day cutting schedule. Both pictures were taken several days post-harvest.

Figure 2. Picture depicting two harvest systems. The plots on the right were harvested a total of five times the previous year on a 28-day harvest schedule. The plots on the left were harvested on an extended harvest schedule every 35 days, for a total of four harvests the previous year. This picture was taken in early May, illustrating the impact of harvest management on winter survivability and persistence (Boone, IA).

Let the data speak for itself. When evaluating the impacts on yields over a multiyear period, we see extended cutting improves overall production per acre. Even when eliminating an entire cutting, we see significant improvements in total yield, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Impact of harvest interval on dry matter production for conventional, Roundup Ready® and HarvXtra® alfalfa. Plots were seeded in 2017, and data was accumulated from 2018-2020.

When weighing the quantity versus quality benefits with extended cutting, we don’t recommend this with conventional alfalfa. Even though we gain a significant amount of dry matter each day we delay cutting, we give up quality due to a more mature plant. With conventional varieties, quality can decrease significantly. However, with HarvXtra alfalfa varieties, the plant is able to maintain higher quality in the form of improved digestibility later in maturity, so we don’t see the similar decline in quality. Harvesting on a delayed schedule with these varieties will result in forage quality similar to conventional alfalfa harvested on a traditional schedule.

Taking advantage of newer technologies can help improve not only the amount of forage harvested, but also the overall health of your stand. With a HarvXtra alfalfa variety, you don’t have to sacrifice your tonnage needs or quality goals. If you’re interested in learning how you can widen your cutting window with HarvXtra Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology from NEXGROW, visit

NEXGROW® alfalfa varieties are for dairy and beef farmers and commercial hay producers who are always looking for next-generation advances in high-yielding and high-quality alfalfa varieties. Few companies offer a broader portfolio of HarvXtra, Roundup Ready and conventional alfalfas than NEXGROW, and we can help you navigate the many considerations to determine what’s best for your farm. Our HarvXtra Alfalfa with Roundup Ready Technology varieties offer growers extra flexibility when it comes to cutting without sacrificing forage quality or yield potential. With a more flexible cutting window, growers are in charge of their harvest schedules. Roundup Ready Technology alfalfa also delivers unsurpassed weed control and crop safety in the field.
©2021 Forage Genetics International. HarvXtra® is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC, used under license by Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is subject to planting and use restrictions.