Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Winning the battle with bloat

New ‘Mountainview’ sainfoin cultivar promises bloat-free alfalfa pasture grazing for Western Canada.

Posted: 11 February, 2013

By: Brad Brinkworth, Meristem Media

It's a marriage made in cattle heaven. Scientists have developed a new variety of sainfoin that when paired with alfalfa in a mixed stand offers the holy grail of bloat-free alfalfa pasture grazing for cattle.

Development of the new cultivar, tested as LRC 3902, was led by Dr. Surya Acharya of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge. With a proposed name of Mountainview, it offers cattle producers a brand new 'king' to pair with 'queen of forages' alfalfa, to provide innovative new options and many superior benefits.

Announcement of the new variety was made by Acharya at the Alberta Forage Industry Network AGM, Feb. 5, in Ponoka, Alta.

"This new sainfoin cultivar is truly one-of-a-kind and represents an exciting new opportunity for cattle producers," says Acharya, a long-time forage breeder and recipient of the 2012 Canadian Plant Breeding and Genetics Award. "It is the first sainfoin cultivar that will survive in alfalfa pasture and grow back at the same rate after cutting or grazing. It will prevent bloat in mixed stands to provide producers with their first real, economically viable option to allow for highly productive, bloat-free alfalfa pasture grazing."

High-quality crop

A new way to win the battle with bloat is a big step forward to benefit beef and dairy industries in Western Canada. The forage industry is very significant across the Prairie provinces. According to the most recent census of agriculture by Statistics Canada there are 28.8 million acres of forage land in Alberta alone.

Sainfoin is a high quality forage legume crop that features a condensed tannin concentration. This is very effective at preventing deadly pasture bloat in ruminants. However, until now, sainfoin cultivars have not survived well in alfalfa pasture or grown back after the first cut.

The new cultivar was bred to overcome those two hurdles and field trials show it represents a great success. It was derived from parental clones selected for improved forage yield in mixed stands with alfalfa and regrowth after cutting. When grown under irrigated and rainfed conditions of Western Canada, LRC 3902 out yielded Nova, the check variety, by 22 to 42 percent in pure stands and 30 to 39 percent in mixed stands with alfalfa. It also showed strong regrowth.

"The Mountainview cultivar achieves what we set out to accomplish with our sainfoin improvement program," says Acharya. "It grows very well and fits all the criteria cattle producers have required to have a solid, reliable option to support bloat-free alfalfa grazing. This cultivar is well suited for preventing bloat in mixed alfalfa stands without loss in animal productivity."

Peak of performance

Moutainview promises to live up to its name by delivering results at the peak of forage performance. Though four years of testing at different locations in Western Canada it proved a consistent leader in yield, maturity, seed weight, disease resistance and winterhardiness. Mountainview reaches flowering 10 days earlier than Nova and has a seed weight with pod of 20-24 g per 1,000 compared to 18-22 g for Nova.

"Mountainview's rapid regrowth after cutting is very different from Nova and is one of its greatest benefits," says Acharya. "I think cattle producers will find a lot to like in this new cultivar."

That sentiment is echoed by Doug Wray, Wray Ranch, Irricana, Alta., Chair of the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association. "Legumes are vital to the productivity and sustainability of our tame pastures," says Wray. "Mountainview sainfoin offers exciting potential to increase the carrying capacity of our ranch."

Breeder seed for LRC 3902 will be produced at AAFC in Indian Head, Sask., and the multiplication and distribution rights will be awarded through a competitive process. Seed is expected to become available to growers for 2015 seeding.

The forage breeding program at AAFC in Lethbridge has a major focus on the development of innovative, superior new varieties that benefit Canadian cattle producers and their industry.

Acharya and his forage research colleagues at AAFC Lethbridge are part of Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN), which was formed in 2010 to represent the forage industry in the province. Key parts of the AFIN mandate are to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas among producers and other stakeholders in the forage industry, and to champion research, education and extension for the management and use of forages. More information is available at www.albertaforages.ca.

Click here for a high quality print version

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.

Send to a Friend