The Alfalfa Pre-breeding Project

The potential of wild crop germplasm to improve drought tolerance in alfalfa to increase food production for a growing population with less water








The Project’s alfalfa pre-breeding work is being conducted by a team coordinated by the South Australian Research & Development Institute that includes scientists from Australia, Chile, Kazakhstan, and Inner Mongolia. The alfalfa pre-breeding work is expected to occur between 2015 and 2018.

Alfalfa is an important and broadly adapted forage crop that is planted for hay, pasture and silage in more than 80 countries on 30-35 million hectares. However, livestock and forage production is being shifted to more marginal, less fertile agricultural soils as the world population increases. Climate change is furthermore projected to further stress alfalfa production in areas where the crop is most important, such as the desert regions of Central Asia and northern Chile. As water becomes scarcer in these regions, the development of improved, drought-tolerant alfalfa varieties will be essential.

The goal of this project is evaluate wild alfalfa species collected from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Chile, Peru and Bolivia for drought stress tolerance, with a focus on germplasm found in the Atacama desert and northern Andes. The germplasm will be evaluated in target environments in southern Chile, Kazakhstan, Inner Mongolia, and South Australia. Overall, the alfalfa pre-breeding work aims to identify new sources of drought tolerance in wild alfalfa for use in already existing breeding programs in Chile, Kazakhstan and China.

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