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November 5, 2014

High Quality Alfalfa Needed for U.S. Export Market


The market for exports of high-quality American alfalfa is at an all-time high and continues to grow. Sales of alfalfa shipped overseas rose to $586 million last year and contributed heavily to our country’s record level of agricultural exports last year, which totaled $144 billion.1 Even though the export market has softened in recent months, most exporters see continued expansion for alfalfa.

Sales of alfalfa shipped overseas rose to $586 million last year and contributed heavily to our country’s record level of agricultural exports last year, which totaled $144 billion.1

“Currently China is the number one importer, and while the Japanese market has been a bit soft this year, there is still demand overseas for U.S. alfalfa,” says Mike Hajny, vice president of Wesco, a Washington-based alfalfa exporter. “There’s extremely strong demand from China but the alfalfa has to be a certain analysis (quality) level and a certain price level to work for them.” 

“The important indicators we look for is color, texture, leaf retention and the actual chemical analysis itself,” he explains. “That will tell you if it’s young cut, if it has good protein, and so on. Leaf retention is important because our customers want the leaves in the alfalfa – they are full of nutrients and horses and cattle like the leaves.”  

Feed for superiority

Growing superior alfalfa requires high-quality inputs, including a superior source of potassium (K). Protassium+® from Compass Minerals® (sulfate of potash 0-0-50-17S) is a superior source of potassium because it has the lowest salt index of all major K sources – less than one percent chloride. An added advantage of Protassium+ is the 17% sulfur it offers in sulfate form. 

Alfalfa removes about 60 lbs./Acre of potassium from the soil per ton of hay. Adequate K is vital for promoting the alfalfa plants’ root development, photosynthesis, carbohydrate production, protein conversion, disease tolerance, and other essential processes.

Footnotes:

1 “U.S. Farmers Making Hay with Alfalfa Exports to China”, David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2014.