February 14, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

The 21st annual Kentucky Alfalfa Conference offers practical information that is on the minds of farmers today.

The program, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and the Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council, used farmer comments to develop its agenda.

"We are dealing with what is on farmers' minds," said Garry Lacefield, UK extension forage specialist. "Some of the things are what they are reading about such as morning versus afternoon cutting and no-till establishment and quality."

The afternoon will be devoted to utilization, with UK specialists discussing everything from grazing, to use-as-a-feed for horses, dairy & beef, to alfalfa as a cash crop. There will also be exhibitors, awards and a silent auction.

"I think it's a good program. I'm very excited about it," Lacefield said. "We always try to make this a very practical program. It's things people can take home and put into use."

Kentucky is only one of two states that holds an alfalfa conference, with California being the other. So the Kentucky conference draws growers from other states.

Alfalfa is the No. 1 hay crop in the United States. Its dominant use is for cash hay.

"It is the most versatile plant I've ever worked with," Lacefield said. "It is in big demand as hay for the dairy and horse industry as well as for beef stockers. It can also be used for grazing and as haylage. It does require better soils and a little better management. On poorly drained soils, wet soils, we don't recommend alfalfa. We recommend red clover, lespedeza or something else."

Farmers need to start with a soils map to know what they have, he said, and then use soil testing to amend the soils. Kentucky farmers do little soil testing for nutrient needs on forage crops. Only about 10 percent of the forage lands are tested, but alfalfa growers do the best job with 60 percent of the alfalfa land being soil tested, he said.

The conference is from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on March 1 at the Cave City Convention Center. There is a registration fee of $15 and Certified Crop Advisor credits are available.

The program has two featured speakers. Gary Bates, a forage specialist with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service since 1993, will discuss establishing alfalfa using no-till techniques.

Neal P. Martin, director of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis., will discuss alfalfa hay quality, sampling, testing and marketing. Martin previously was an extension agronomist-forages at the University of Minnesota.

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


Garry Lacefield, (270) 365-7541