Yellow flowered alfalfa field day to be held June 26 |

Yellow flowered alfalfa field day to be held June 26

A field day focused on yellow flowered alfalfa is set for June 26 at Bud Smith’s ranch in rural Perkins County, SD.

It takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ranch, located one mile south and one mile east of Lodgepole. Signs on South Dakota Highway 75 will mark the road to the ranch. The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service will host the event.

Participants are encouraged to attend the event in vehicles with four-wheel drive due to rugged conditions. For more information, call Extension Agronomy Educator Bob Drown, (605) 244-5622.

Drown said the main focus of the event is yellow flowered alfalfa seeding. “We’ll look at what has been done and the possibilities for future use,” he said. “Yellow flowered alfalfa has a rich history, but beyond that, it could serve as an important plant for producers in this region.”

Bud Smith, a rancher in the area, has a long experience with yellow flowered alfalfa. His great uncle was one of the original ranchers who used the seed to bolster forage in the 1930s.

Yellow flowered, or Falcata, alfalfa came to South Dakota from Siberia. N.E. Hansen, an esteemed South Dakota State University plant breeder and “plant explorer,” brought seed back from his travels to the Russian steppes and suggested producers in western South Dakota “throw it out their back doors” to see how it would do.

Hansen felt yellow flowered alfalfa, a native to soil and climate similar to that in the western part of the state, might grow well in that area.

Bud Smith’s great uncle followed Hansen’s instruction. Bud and his son, Tim, continue the process today. Bud Smith has found yellow flowered alfalfa benefits native grass and improves both nutrition and carrying capacity of pasture.

Smith will answer questions and show three different fields of yellow flowered alfalfa seeded on his property. One field is 90 percent or more yellow flowered alfalfa, a second is 60 percent or higher yellow flowered, and the third is 30 percent yellow flowered.

Drown said the Smiths have harvested the seed during good years thanks in part to Bud Smith’s work with the leaf-cutter bees. “They are efficient pollinators for the yellow-flowered alfalfa,” he said. “Using that insect has made a significant difference.”

Gerald Schuman, a retired soil scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Cheyenne, WY, will present information on research about yellow flowered alfalfa’s role in sequestering carbon in rangeland, along with information on the plant’s forage production and quality.

South Dakota Cooperative Extension Range Management Specialist Roger Gates will discuss research on yellow flowered alfalfa plantings in western South Dakota.

Extension livestock specialists or educators will augment Gates’ presentation with information on how and why yellow flowered alfalfa does not present the same bloat issues in livestock that other alfalfas are known for.

The field day also will give participants a chance to see the original Smith homestead where Bud Smith’s great uncle followed Hansen’s instructions and “threw the seed out the back door.”

A lunch will be provided. A U.S. Forest Service representative will give information on the role of yellow flowered alfalfa in forage for wildlife and hay production.

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