Revised Alfalfa Fertilizer Recommendations for a Changing Environment Greatly Improves Profitability

Authors: , , ,


During the last decade, an ever-increasing percentage of alfalfa fields in northeast Iowa have been exhibiting signs of reduced growth and vigor, resulting in declining profitability. Iowa State University Extension in northeast Iowa initiated an investigation into this problem. Sixteen research trials conducted in northeast Iowa over the next 6 years as both on-farm trials and at the northeast ISU research farm uncovered widespread sulfur deficiency problems in alfalfa production. Over 90 ISU Extension educational meetings in northeast Iowa, and extensive use of the media, communicated this issue and tools to address it to farmers and agricultural providers. Survey results from farmers and agricultural providers in 2008 and again in 2010 documented 72% of the alfalfa fields in northeast Iowa now receive sulfur fertilizer applications. These actions have increased farmers’ net profit by an average of $57 per acre. Increases in yield and improved alfalfa vigor and competitiveness against weeds allowed over one-third of the survey respondents to keep their stand an additional year. Improved yield and stand life on over 70% of the 200,000 acres of alfalfa in northeast Iowa equates to an economic improvement of about $8 million. In addition, most alfalfa growers in northeast Iowa operate dairies. Improved dairy profitability has a significant economic multiplier effect onto local communities. This research also spurred the interest of University faculty in neighboring states where they have since initiated similar research.

Keywords: ASL R2702

How to Cite: Lang, B. , Sawyer, J. E. , Barker, D. W. & Pecinovsky, K. (2012) “Revised Alfalfa Fertilizer Recommendations for a Changing Environment Greatly Improves Profitability”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report. 9(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.31274/ans_air-180814-262