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Improved sanfoin in the pipeline

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. The new variety still in the seed multiplication stage, will be commercially available in 2015.

“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.”

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 per cent in pure stands and 30 to 39 per cent 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.”

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.”

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