USDA Makes $1.85 Million Available to Improve Alfalfa and Forage Crop Research, Best Practices

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $1.85 million in funding for the Alfalfa Forage and Research Program (AFRP). This program, administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds research and extension programs that improve alfalfa forage and seed yield and trains producers to apply best practices.

“Research into critical agricultural science areas like this reach their full potential when coupled with extension activities. Applicants for these grants should keep in mind the importance of reaching out to producers and farmers to share information and apply research findings,” said NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy. “Integrating these two important functions is how agricultural solutions move from the lab to the farm and vice versa.”

Alfalfa and other forage crops are essential to sustainable agricultural systems and are economic engines for rural communities. These crops are valued for their soil conservation, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, crop rotation and wildlife habitat attributes.. However, to provide these societal benefits, the production of forage crops must be profitable to farmers so they will be willing to maintain or expand base acreage.

The Alfalfa and Forage Research Program (AFRP) supports integrated, collaborative research and technology transfer to improve the efficiency and sustainability of conventional and organic forage production systems. The program encourages projects that establish multi-disciplinary networks to address priority national or regional science needs of the alfalfa industry. By bringing together expertise from multiple organizations and states, these projects will have greater impact and enhance the effectiveness of limited state, federal and industry resources.

The goals of AFRP are to improve alfalfa forage yield and seed yield through better nutrient, water, and/or pest management; improve persistence of alfalfa stance by lessening biotic or abiotic stresses; improve alfalfa forage and seed harvesting and storage systems to optimize economic returns; improve estimate of alfalfa forage quality as an animal feed to increase forage usage in animal feeds; and use breeding to address biotic and abiotic stresses that impact alfalfa forage yield and persistence and the production of seed for propagation.

Applications are due April 13. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.

Past projects include University of California research into ensuring the sustainability of Western U.S. alfalfa production by characterizing deficient irrigation strategies, developing the capability for Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI), and evaluating current and developing future alfalfa varieties and germplasm which are compatible with drought and SDI. A recent project from Mississippi State University will build on recent successes in promoting alfalfa use on farms, as well as evaluating microbial technologies that can improve alfalfa-grass baleage that will benefit farmers producing this forage.

Since 2009, NIFA has invested in and advanced innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA’s integrated research, education, and extension programs, supporting the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel, have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability, and ensuring food safety.   To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

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