Identifying barriers of adoption for low-lignin high digestible alfalfa cultivars in Western Colorado and assessing their adaptability and water productivity

College of Agricultural Sciences

soil and crop sciences



(Delta, Montrose, Ouray)

Primary Topic:

Food and Agriculture

Other Topics:

Economic and Community Development, Emergency Planning and Resources, Food and Agriculture, Health and Well-Being, Natural Resources and Sustainability, Youth and Family Development

Lead Mentor:  

srinivasa rao pinnamneni

Irrigated Cropping Systems Specialist

Internship Overview:

The intern will primarily address two areas with support of mentors. 1. Identifying barriers of low-lignin high digestible alfalfa cultivars in Western Colorado by designing appropriate survey methodology and 2. Collecting the data on an experiment comparing the low-lignin alfalfa cultivars with the locally grown alfalfa cultivars for forage yield, water productivity, lodging, digestibility and economics of cultivation.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

More than 80% of the growers in Western Colorado depend on alfalfa for feeding the livestock due to its high nutrient content, adaptability and perennial multi-cut nature. However, the crop’s lignin content hampers animals’ ability to digest and use alfalfa. The recently developed low-lignin alfalfa cultivars have the potential to increase the feeding value of alfalfa and widen the optimal harvest window. Lignin is a phenolic polymer that provides the plant with the strength and rigidity necessary to stand upright, lignin is an indigestible cell wall component that reduces the fiber digestibility of forages. It ranges between 6 to 9 percent of the whole alfalfa plant’s dry weight. Adoption of low-lignin alfalfa cultivars has the potential to be very advantageous to growers. Further it widens the optimal harvest window, making it possible for alfalfa producers to delay harvest and achieve greater yields while still maintaining a high forage nutritive value. However, the adoption low lignin alfalfa cultivars in Western Colorado is low primarily due to lack of scientific data on their performance in the region. Having alfalfa growers involved in the evaluation and adoption processes is crucial to the success of this technology. The intern will conduct a survey with the growers in Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Oury counties to identify barriers of adoption and involve conducting the trial of low-lignin alfalfa cultivars for assessing their forage yield, harvesting window, relative feed value, lodging, digestibility in comparison with the locally adopted conventional alfalfa cultivars.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

CSU Extension, Colorado AES, and the Colorado STAR farmers, Colorado Cattlemen Association.

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

Developing the survey methodology, primary and secondary data collection methods, communication skills, science based logical thinking based on the real-world field challenges for developing sustainable and eco-friendly solutions.
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