Currently, the alfalfa market is controlled by a few very prolific producers. This is a somewhat recent trend, as the number of suppliers has fallen precipitously over the past few decades. As with any development in the alfalfa market, there are both pros and cons associated with this trend.
On the one hand, the suppliers that now dominate the alfalfa market did not ascend to this position by accident. Rather, they generally rose to this prominence by providing the best quality product, so although farmers not have a more limited selection of suppliers to buy from, they can now rest assured that they will be buying from the best in the business.
Of course, this lack of competition can also be problematic. Smaller farmers especially may not be able to meet the price points set by these top-of-the-line alfalfa producers. Another development that has emerged alongside the drop in alfalfa producers is a dearth of testing of new alfalfa brands. Simply put, as the number of alfalfa varieties on the market has declined, so too has the demand for testing. Nevertheless, new alfalfa varieties are still introduced regularly. In the end, then, buyers have less information about the quality of previously-unknown alfalfa brands than ever before, which can result in them being forced to purchase alfalfa of unknown quality. From farmers running large-scale operations to those helming more modest ones, having to fly blind with regard to the quality of the alfalfa they are using could potentially be quite disastrous.
Even though it might seem like a few major alfalfa producers have a stranglehold on the market, buyers should still do their due diligence as they consider what alfalfa works best for them. They ought to take note of any research regarding certain varieties, even if the availability of such research is lacking now more than ever. Buyers should also take a holistic approach when considering what type of alfalfa they would like to buy. Looking at only one characteristic is a recipe for disaster. However, there are some characteristics that should be considered most highly. Buyers should strongly consider purchasing alfalfa with high fall dormancy ratings, as this metric is correlated well with the seed’s ability to survive harsh winters. They should also focus on the alfalfa’s potential yield and not be distracted by other more esoteric traits. Finally, when considering seed cost, producers should keep in mind the fact that alfalfa generally pays for itself in the long run but that short-term losses are to be expected.