The pending release of the first alfalfa with a genetically engineered trait and environmental issues related to the “Queen of Forages” are featured components of the National Alfalfa Symposium to be held Dec. 13-15 in San Diego.

“Roundup Ready alfalfa is likely to be released in 2005, so this is a good opportunity to examine the technology before it hits the fields,” said Mike Ottman, program co-chair and University of Arizona alfalfa specialist.

Dan Putnam, conference program co-chair and University of California Cooperative Extension alfalfa specialist, said the conference is oriented towards a practical audience.

Speaker topics

“We will have speakers on markets, production methods, forage quality and pest management,” he said. “But speakers will also cover a wide range of current environmental issues — such as water use, recycling of wastewater, irrigation efficiency and pesticide runoff.”

One speaker will address the issue of perchlorate contamination. Perchlorate is a chemical found in some fertilizers and irrigation water. It is taken up by plants and has been found in milk samples. Other speakers will cover water transfers and alfalfa's influence on wildlife and soils.

A special “mini symposium” will be on the subject of recycling waste on forage crops, an idea that is of great interest to the state's dairy farmers and to municipalities in congested Southern California.

Alfalfa covers more than 23 million acres of American farmland, generates the third largest revenue among U.S. crops, provides wildlife habitat, sustains the livelihood of thousands of farmers and feeds millions of dairy cows, sheep, goats and horses. Even though it is often called an “engine of food production,” few members of the general public recognize its importance in their daily lives.

The symposium includes an agricultural tour of the Imperial Valley Dec. 13, featuring December alfalfa production, winter vegetable production and water issues in one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. The tour ends with an evening barbecue.

A comprehensive commercial exhibit during the symposium will allow attendees to view exhibits of dozens of new and emerging technologies related to alfalfa.

The program for the national conference — which is combined this year with the California Alfalfa Symposium — was developed by the University of California Alfalfa Workgroup together with forage Extension specialists from many universities in the United States. It is the first national symposium since 2000, when about 700 farmers, pest control advisers, industry representatives and others attended the conference in Las Vegas. Translation to Spanish will be available.

Registration for the 2004 National Alfalfa Symposium is $150 prior to Dec. 1 and $180 thereafter. It will be held at the Town and Country Resort Hotel in San Diego. (Room reservations for $85 per night may be made by calling (800) 772-8527 or (619) 291-7131.) Program information and registration forms are online at http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu. For additional information, contact Putnam at dhputnam@ucdavis.edu, or Nikki Clark, administrative assistant in the UC Davis Department of Agronomy and Range Science, at ndclark@ucdavis.edu.