Responding to Ag Provider and Producer Needs for Reliable Information on Foliar Disease Management in Alfalfa

Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension
Iowa State University

Title of Success Story

Responding to Ag Provider and Produce Needs for Reliable Information on Foliar Disease Management in Alfalfa

Public Value (now or future)
(Impact:  Who benefits beyond participants and how?  What conditions changed?)

Within the last 18 months, 2 fungicide products received label registration for use on alfalfa.  Agricultural providers and farmers immediately began to ask University Extension staff about the economic viability of using these products in alfalfa production.  However, insufficient research exists from which to provide sound recommendations for their use.  In response, Extension staff from Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin initiated research trials in 2011 regarding the use of foliar fungicides in alfalfa production.  This is the just the beginning of a long term effort to develop the information necessary to provide economically viable and environmentally sound recommendations.  In other words, to determine expectations for profitability of this management practice for farmers and the dairy industry, and minimize the chance of product misuse and potential resistance development.

(Why is it important to address this issue with education?  What are the desired changes?)

winter ISU Extension Crop Production Programs.  We educated agricultural providers and farmers on disease identification, timely application, and proper stewardship of foliar fungicide use.  This should result in improved decision making by agricultural providers and farmers regarding when and where the fungicide practice may best be used, and to minimize the chance of resistance development of fungicides by limiting repeated use of the same chemical groups during the season.

(Outputs: activities, numbers reached, publications, products)

The 2011 research trial results were summarized into a Power Point presentation that was shared with agricultural providers and ISU Extension faculty and staff.  The ISU Extension Agronomist in northeast Iowa presented this information at 15 programs to over 600 farmers and agricultural providers.  Other Extension staff and agricultural providers used this information to educated additional farmers on this production practice.

RESULTS (Outcomes:  specific changes that occurred in Learning, Actions, Conditions; how outcomes were measured)

In the long term, this practice will require additional years of research on multiple sites across the upper mid-west United States.  For northeast Iowa, a series of research trials have been initiated to span the next few years.

In the short term, a subset of the 15 educational programs mentioned above was surveyed as to the potential impact of this initial effort.  The subset consisted of farmers from 5 of the 15 programs, and represented the more concentrated dairy region in northeast Iowa (Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek County).  Before and after meeting survey results of the farmers include:
    1)  Farmer knowledge to use scouting materials to identify leaf diseases on alfalfa improved by 38%.
    2)  Farmer ability to time a fungicide application to maximize benefits from the practice improved by 52%.
    3)  Farmer understanding of stewardship of avoiding repeated use of fungicides from the same chemical group improved 74%.
    4)  Average estimated economic benefit in 2011 of those farmers adopting this management practice:  +$27 per acre on approximately 3,200 acres.

Desired Changes

Research on this management practice is in its infancy.  Continued research over multiple years and locations is necessary to provide reliable information for best pest management practices.  Even so, in just a short period of time, significant awareness to follow sound management was achieved and educational efforts will continue.  With increased awareness among farmers and agricultural providers we will have more opportunities to identify and conduct additional research, and develop more reliable best management practices on fungicide use for alfalfa.

Extension Lead(s)
(name, position, counties served, contact information)

Brian Lang, Extension Field Agronomist, Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek, Winneshiek County Extension, 325 Washington St., Decorah, IA 52101, Office 563-382-2949, Cell 563-387-7058.

Your Position

­­­­­__x__Field                                        _____Campus                         _____Both

POW # and Team

 ­­­­­_____100 Corn and Soybean Production and Protection
­­­­­__x__ 110 Dairy
­­­­­_____ 120 Farm and Business Management
­­­­­_____ 130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer
­­­­­_____ 140 Iowa Beef Center
­­­­­_____ 150 Iowa Pork Industry Center
­­­­­__x__ 160 Natural Resources and Stewardship

ANR Priority (select all that apply)

­­­­­__x__Global Food Security and Hunger
­­­­­_____Regional Food Systems
­­­­­__x__Natural Resources & Environmental Stewardship
­­­­­_____Food Safety
­­­­­_____Sustainable Energy – Biofuels & Biobased Products
­­­­­_____Climate Change

Knowledge Areas: (USDA categories)


Continuing Story

__x__ No                _____  Yes (If continuing, what story?)
Initial effort on what will be continuing work.

Major Partners or Collaborators

ISU Northeast Research Farm at Nashua, University of Minnesota Research Farm at Waseca, University of Wisconsin Research Farm at Arlington.

Where story took place
(Region, campus, multi-regional)

Northeast Iowa.

Fiscal Year


Multi-state or Integrated (Ext + Research)


Funding Source

Northeast ISU Extension Agronomist Program, BASF


Alfalfa, foliar fungicide


Page last updated: March 22, 2012
Page maintained by Julie Honeick,