Cache Valley Alfalfa
Origin: Cache Valley, Utah
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~220
Germination tested 12/2019: 80%
Life cycle: Perennial
Another gem from Joseph Lofthouse, Landrace Seedsman, in high-altitude Paradise, Utah. Like all of Joseph's seeds, these are super resilient and contain a great diversity of genes.
Alfalfa is one of the most important crops in agriculture due to its perennial nature, nitrogen fixing ability, and use as feed and forage for livestock. Often known as "lucerne" outside of North America, alfalfa is the most widely grown forage legume. It is usually turned into hay, but is also used for silage (fermented) and sometime pasture. It is most commonly fed to dairy cattle, but also beef cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and rabbits. Many humans love the taste of alfalfa sprouts, which are sold in supermarkets but are very easy to make at home.
Most alfalfa in the US is grown in California, Idaho, and Montana. It does very well in dry, western states, but farmers in the more humid East grow it as well. In recent decades, there has been a great deal of controversy around the introduction of genetically engineered (or GMO) alfalfa. GMO alfalfa was engineered to withstand repeated application of the Monsanto Corporation's RoundUp herbicide, officially known as "glyphosate." We are of the strong opinion that glyphosate — which is also patented as an antibiotic and mineral chelator — is a dangerous chemical, causing detrimental effects to soil biology, plant nutrition, ecosystem biodiversity, and human health. Given the importance of alfalfa in US dairy and beef protection, and the already high levels of glyphosate in the food supply, we believe the USDA's approval of GMO glyphosate was a costly and grave error. We hope that plant breeders with an interest in alfalfa will continue working on non-GMO varieites of alfalfa — and we offer this diverse population to help with such efforts. Joseph Lofthouse originally collected this variety from feral populations found growing in non-irragated parts of Utah's Cache Valley.
People uninterested in plant breeding should consider growing alfalfa too. It can be grown at home as a source of seeds for sprouts, or as feed for pets or livestock, but it is also a beneficial plant for all sorts of other reasons: in rotation with other crops it can serve as a soil improving nitrogen fixer, its flowers are an important insectary for bees and other pollinators, and it is even a beautiful ornamental plant, filling a permanent bed with a three-foot mass of green with purple flowers every year, dying back to the ground in winter. It may need to be re-planted after some years, or rotated every 5 or 10 years with another plant, because individuals only survive between 5 and 10 years usually (sometimes over 20), and the plant is considered "autotoxic," meaning that living alfalfa plants exude chemicals that make it hard for alfalfa seeds to germinate.
We're honored and grateful to be the near-exclusive source of Joseph Lofthouse's amazing seeds — freeing him up to do more farming, plant breeding, pickling, yoga, and loving. We know you will enjoy planting these extraordinary seeds. Thanks Joseph!
NOTE: Photo is an old public domain image from the New York Public Library of "stacking alfalfa."
GROWING TIPS: Perennial. Set mature plants about a foot apart from each other. May be planted any time of year.