Winter survival is important for a perennial crop like alfalfa. The harsh winters typical of Northern New York make winter hardiness an essential trait for alfalfa production. Loss of a high quality perennial crop to winterkill is an economic blow to producers with both time and money lost to crop rotation and reestablishment costs.
Some alfalfa varieties have better winter hardiness than others and are thus better suited to survive a truly harsh NNY winter. However, alfalfa decline due to poor drainage and waterlogged soils will not be remedied by superior winter hardy varieties.
So what should cold climate alfalfa growers do? Click here to read the 2014 season results of the Testing Alfalfa Varieties & Germplasm for Winter Survival in NNY project funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. The project leaders Julie L. Hansen, Donald Viands, and Jamie Crawford of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University; collaborators are CCE NNY Field Crops and Soils Specialist Kitty O’Neil and Cornell Willsboro Research Farm Manager Michael Davis.