February 14, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

The 22st annual Kentucky Alfalfa Conference offers practical information on a forage crop that can provide farmers with a high-demand product.

The program, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and the Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council, will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Cave City Convention Center. There is a registration fee of $15 which includes publications and lunch. Certified Crop Advisor credits are available.

Alfalfa is the No. 1 hay crop in the United States. It is in demand as hay for the dairy and horse industry as well as for beef stockers.

More than 250,000 acres of alfalfa are grown in Kentucky today, and there is the potential for 2 million acres based just on soil and land resource potential without replacing any tobacco, corn or soybean land, said Garry Lacefield, University of Kentucky Extension forage specialist.

"We also know that if you look at Kentucky, you see that we are in closer proximity to southern markets than the northern states, plus we have a tremendous market in the state with our horse industry," he said. "Geographically we are positioned for an opportunity for marketing and reducing the transportation costs of bringing alfalfa in from the west.

"Year in and year out, there is a good strong demand for quality alfalfa hay," Lacefield said.

One downside is that the volume produced in the state is not enough to command the big buyers coming in here.

"We need to get our volume up and the quality," he said.

Kentucky also has the additional challenge of more rainfall than most of the large alfalfa producing states in the west. This increases the chances of getting a cutting wet.

"We do have a challenge, but our extremely long growing season can allow us to produce with about everyone," he said. "Plus, we are getting more technology, better principles and practices and equipment that helps us to put up a high quality alfalfa crop."

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith will discuss marketing Kentucky hay during the conference.

Advances in technology, equipment and practices also will be topics at the alfalfa conference including: advances in alfalfa breeding; managing for yield-quality-persistence; grazing alfalfa; designing a grazing system; and innovative loading and stacking systems for custom hay sales.

After lunch, advances in hay harvesting equipment will be addressed followed by a "hot topics discussion" from university and industry representatives. These topics include Roundup Ready alfalfa, super conditioners, seed coatings, grazing tolerance, morning versus afternoon cutting and leafhopper resistance.

There also will be exhibitors, awards and a silent auction. Speakers for the event include specialists from the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, state and federal government agencies and industry representatives.

Check with your local extension office for more information on the alfalfa conference.


Garry Lacefield, (270) 365-7541