Alfalfa (/ælˈfælfə/), also called lucerne and called Medicago sativa in binomial nomenclature, is a perennial flowering plant in the legume family Fabaceae. It is cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop. The name alfalfa is used in North America. The name lucerne is the more commonly used name in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The plant superficially resembles clover (a cousin in the same family), especially while young, when trifoliate leaves comprising round leaflets predominate. Later in maturity, leaflets are elongated. It has clusters of small purple flowers followed by fruits spiralled in 2 to 3 turns containing 10–20 seeds. Alfalfa is native to warmer temperate climates. It has been cultivated as livestock fodder since at least the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Alfalfa sprouts are a common ingredient in dishes made in South Indian cuisine.[4]

75 Medicago sativa L
Medicago sativa[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Medicago
Section: M. sect. Medicago
M. sativa
Binomial name
Medicago sativa
  • M. sativa subsp. ambigua (Trautv.) Tutin
  • M. sativa subsp. microcarpa Urban
  • M. sativa subsp. sativa
  • M. sativa subsp. varia (T. Martyn) Arcang.


Alfalfa seems to have originated in south-central Asia, and was first cultivated in ancient Iran.[5][6] According to Pliny (died 79 AD), it was introduced to Greece in about 490 BC when the Persians invaded Greek territory. Alfalfa cultivation is discussed in the fourth-century AD book Opus Agriculturae by Palladius, stating: "One sow-down lasts ten years. The crop may be cut four or six times a year ... A jugerum of it is abundantly sufficient for three horses all the year ... It may be given to cattle, but new provender is at first to be administered very sparingly, because it bloats up the cattle."[7] Pliny and Palladius called alfalfa in Latin medica, a name that referred to the Medes, a people who lived in ancient Iran. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed, probably correctly, that alfalfa came from the Medes' land, in today's Iran. (The ancient Greeks and Romans also used the name medica to mean a citron fruit, once again because it was believed to have come from the Medes' land). This name is the root of the modern scientific name for the alfalfa genus, Medicago.

In ancient India, Ayurvedic texts prescribe the use of Alfalfa seeds and sprouts for improving blood cell production and its leaves and stem as a good source of protein and minerals.[8]

The medieval Arabic agricultural writer Ibn al-'Awwam, who lived in Spain in the later 12th century, discussed how to cultivate alfalfa, which he called الفصفصة (al-fiṣfiṣa).[9] A 13th-century general-purpose Arabic dictionary, Lisān al-'Arab, says that alfalfa is cultivated as an animal feed and consumed in both fresh and dried forms.[10] It is from the Arabic that the Spanish name alfalfa was derived.[11]

In the 16th century, Spanish colonizers introduced alfalfa to the Americas as fodder for their horses. They were aware that alfalfa is better than grass as food for working horses (alfalfa had more energy).

In the North American colonies of the eastern US in the 18th century, it was called "lucerne", and many trials at growing it were made, but generally without sufficiently successful results.[6] Relatively little is grown in the southeastern United States today.[12] Lucerne (or luzerne) is the name for alfalfa in Britain, Australia, France, Germany, and a number of other countries. Alfalfa seeds were imported to California from Chile in the 1850s. That was the beginning of a rapid and extensive introduction of the crop over the western US States[5] and introduced the word "alfalfa" to the English language. Since North and South America now produce a large part of the world's output, the word "alfalfa" has been slowly entering other languages.


Alfalfa is a perennial forage legume which normally lives four to eight years, but can live more than 20 years, depending on variety and climate.[13] The plant grows to a height of up to 1 m (3.3 ft), and has a deep root system, sometimes growing to a depth of more than 15 m (49 ft) to reach groundwater. Typically the root system grows to a depth of 2–3 metres depending on subsoil constraints.[13] Owing to deep root system, it helps to improve soil nitrogen fertility and protect from soil erosion.[14] This depth of root system, and perenniality of crowns that store carbohydrates as an energy reserve, make it very resilient, especially to droughts. Alfalfa is more drought-hardy than drought-tolerant and the persistence of the plant also depends on the management of the stand.[13] It has a tetraploid genome.[15]

Alfalfa is a small-seeded crop, and has a slowly growing seedling, but after several months of establishment, forms a tough "crown" at the top of the root system. This crown contains shoot buds that enable alfalfa to regrow many times after being grazed or harvested; however, overgrazing of the buds will reduce the new leaves on offer to the grazing animal.

This plant exhibits autotoxicity, which means it is difficult for alfalfa seed to grow in existing stands of alfalfa.[16] Therefore, alfalfa fields are recommended to be rotated with other species (for example, corn or wheat) before reseeding.[17]


Alfalfa is widely grown throughout the world as forage for cattle, and is most often harvested as hay, but can also be made into silage, grazed, or fed as greenchop.[18] Alfalfa usually has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops. It is used less frequently as pasture.[17] When grown on soils where it is well-adapted, alfalfa is often the highest-yielding forage plant, but its primary benefit is the combination of high yield per hectare and high nutritional quality.[19]

Its primary use is as feed for high-producing dairy cows, because of its high protein content and highly digestible fiber, and secondarily for beef cattle, horses, sheep, and goats.[20][21] Alfalfa hay is a widely used protein and fiber source for meat rabbits. In poultry diets, dehydrated alfalfa and alfalfa leaf concentrates are used for pigmenting eggs and meat, because of their high content in carotenoids, which are efficient for colouring egg yolk and body lipids.[22] Humans also eat alfalfa sprouts in salads and sandwiches.[23][24] Dehydrated alfalfa leaf is commercially available as a dietary supplement in several forms, such as tablets, powders and tea.[25] Fresh alfalfa can cause bloating in livestock, so care must be taken with livestock grazing on alfalfa because of this hazard.[26]

Like other legumes, its root nodules contain bacteria, Sinorhizobium meliloti, with the ability to fix nitrogen, producing a high-protein feed regardless of available nitrogen in the soil.[27] Its nitrogen-fixing ability (which increases soil nitrogen) and its use as an animal feed greatly improve agricultural efficiency.[28][29]

Alfalfa can be sown in spring or fall, and does best on well-drained soils with a neutral pH of 6.8–7.5.[30][31] Alfalfa requires sustained levels of potassium and phosphorus to grow well.[32] It is moderately sensitive to salt levels in both the soil and irrigation water, although it continues to be grown in the arid southwestern United States, where salinity is an emerging issue.[33][34][35] Soils low in fertility should be fertilized with manure or a chemical fertilizer, but correction of pH is particularly important.[36] Usually a seeding rate of 13 – 20 kg/hectare (12 – 25 lb/acre) is recommended, with differences based upon region, soil type, and seeding method.[37] A nurse crop is sometimes used, particularly for spring plantings, to reduce weed problems and soil erosion, but can lead to competition for light, water, and nutrients.[38]

In most climates, alfalfa is cut three to four times a year, but it can be harvested up to 12 times per year in Arizona and southern California.[39][40] Total yields are typically around eight tonnes per hectare (four short tons per acre) in temperate environments, but yields have been recorded up to 20 t/ha (16 ts per acre).[40] Yields vary with region, weather, and the crop's stage of maturity when cut. Later cuttings improve yield, but with reduced nutritional content.[41]

Beneficial insects

Apis mellifera - Medicago sativa - Valingu
Honey bee (Apis mellifera), a pollinator on alfalfa flower

Alfalfa is considered an insectary, a place where insects are reared, and has been proposed as helpful to other crops, such as cotton, if the two are interplanted, because the alfalfa harbours predatory and parasitic insects that would protect the other crop.[42] Harvesting the alfalfa by mowing the entire crop area destroys the insect population, but this can be avoided by mowing in strips so that part of the growth remains.[42]

Pests and diseases

Like most plants, alfalfa can be attacked by various pests and pathogens. Diseases often have subtle symptoms which are easily misdiagnosed and can affect leaves, roots, and stems.

Some pests, such as the alfalfa weevil, aphids, armyworms, and the potato leafhopper,[43] can reduce alfalfa yields dramatically, particularly with the second cutting when weather is warmest.[44] Spotted alfalfa aphid, broadly spread in Australia, not only sucks sap but also injects salivary toxins into the leaves.[45] Registered insecticides or chemical controls are sometimes used to prevent this and labels will specify the withholding period before the forage crop can be grazed or cut for hay or silage.[44] Alfalfa is also susceptible to root rots, including Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, and Texas root rot.[46][47][48]


Alfalfa hay, 1915
Alfalfa hay on the way to Clayton, New Mexico, circa 1915.
Alfalfa round bales
Cylindrical bales of alfalfa

When alfalfa is to be used as hay, it is usually cut and baled.[49] Loose haystacks are still used in some areas, but bales are easier for use in transportation, storage, and feed.[50] Ideally, the first cutting should be taken at the bud stage, and the subsequent cuttings just as the field is beginning to flower, or one-tenth bloom because carbohydrates are at their highest.[51] When using farm equipment rather than hand-harvesting, a swather cuts the alfalfa and arranges it in windrows.[52] In areas where the alfalfa does not immediately dry out on its own, a machine known as a mower-conditioner is used to cut the hay.[49] The mower-conditioner has a set of rollers or flails that crimp and break the stems as they pass through the mower, making the alfalfa dry faster.[53] After the alfalfa has dried, a tractor pulling a baler collects the hay into bales.

Several types of bales are commonly used for alfalfa. For small animals and individual horses, the alfalfa is baled into small, two-string bales, commonly named by the strands of string used to wrap it. Other bale sizes are three-string, and so on up to half-ton (six-string) "square" bales – actually rectangular, and typically about 40 x 45 x 100 cm (14 x 18 x 38 in).[15] Small square bales weigh from 25 to 30 kg (55 to 66 lb) depending on moisture, and can be easily hand separated into "flakes". Cattle ranches use large round bales, typically 1.4 to 1.8 m (4.6 to 5.9 ft) in diameter and weighing from 500 to 1,000 kg (1,100 to 2,200 lb). These bales can be placed in stable stacks or in large feeders for herds of horses or unrolled on the ground for large herds of cattle.[15] The bales can be loaded and stacked with a tractor using a spike, known as a bale spear, that pierces the center of the bale,[54] or they can be handled with a grapple (claw) on the tractor's front-end loader. A more recent innovation is large "square" bales, roughly the same proportions as the small squares, but much larger. The bale size was set so stacks would fit perfectly on a large flatbed truck. These are more common in the western United States.

When used as feed for dairy cattle, alfalfa is often made into haylage by a process known as ensiling.[20] Rather than being dried to make dry hay, the alfalfa is chopped finely and fermented in silos, trenches, or bags, where the oxygen supply can be limited to promote fermentation.[55] The anaerobic fermentation of alfalfa allows it to retain high nutrient levels similar to those of fresh forage, and is also more palatable to dairy cattle than dry hay.[56] In many cases, alfalfa silage is inoculated with different strains of microorganisms to improve the fermentation quality and aerobic stability of the silage.[57][58]

Worldwide production

Worldwide alfalfa production

During the early 2000s, alfalfa was the most cultivated forage legume in the world.[59] Worldwide production was around 436 million tons in 2006.[59] In 2009, alfalfa was grown on approximately 30 million hectares (74,000,000 acres) worldwide; of this North America produced 41% (11.9 million hectares; 29,000,000 acres), Europe produced 25% (7.12 million hectares; 17,600,000 acres), South America produced 23% (7 million hectares; 17,000,000 acres), Asia produced 8% (2.23 million hectares; 5,500,000 acres), and Africa and Oceania produced the remainder.[60] The US was the largest alfalfa producer in the world by area in 2009, with 9 million hectares (22,000,000 acres), but considerable production area is found in Argentina (6.9 million hectares; 17,000,000 acres), Canada (2 million hectares; 4,900,000 acres), Russia (1.8 million hectares; 4,400,000 acres), Italy (1.3 million hectares; 3,200,000 acres), and China (1.3 million hectares; 3,200,000 acres).[60]

United States

In the United States in 2014, the leading alfalfa-growing states were California, Idaho, and Montana.[12] Alfalfa is predominantly grown in the northern and western United States;[12] it can be grown in the southeastern United States, but leaf and root diseases, poor soils, and a lack of well-adapted varieties are often limitations.[61]

Alfalfa and bees

Lucerna - Budaörs
Alfalfa field

Alfalfa seed production requires the presence of pollinators when the fields of alfalfa are in bloom.[15] Alfalfa pollination is somewhat problematic, however, because western honey bees, the most commonly used pollinator, are less than ideal for this purpose; the pollen-carrying keel of the alfalfa flower trips and strikes pollinating bees on the head, which helps transfer the pollen to the foraging bee.[15] Western honey bees, however, do not like being struck in the head repeatedly and learn to defeat this action by drawing nectar from the side of the flower. The bees thus collect the nectar, but carry no pollen, so do not pollinate the next flower they visit.[62] Because older, experienced bees do not pollinate alfalfa well, most pollination is accomplished by young bees that have not yet learned the trick of robbing the flower without tripping the head-knocking keel. When western honey bees are used to pollinate alfalfa, the beekeeper stocks the field at a very high rate to maximize the number of young bees.[62] Western honey bee colonies may suffer protein stress when working alfalfa only, because of shortage of one of the amino acids comprising the pollen protein, isoleucine. Today, the alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) is increasingly used to circumvent these problems.[63] As a solitary but gregarious bee species, it does not build colonies or store honey, but is a very efficient pollinator of alfalfa flowers.[63] Nesting is in individual tunnels in wooden or plastic material, supplied by the alfalfa seed growers.[62] The leafcutter bees are used in the Pacific Northwest, while western honeybees dominate in California alfalfa seed production.[62]

A smaller amount of alfalfa produced for seed is pollinated by the alkali bee, mostly in the northwestern United States. It is cultured in special beds near the fields. These bees also have their own problems. They are not portable like honey bees, and when fields are planted in new areas, the bees take several seasons to build up.[62] Honey bees are still trucked to many of the fields at bloom time.

B. affinis is important to the agricultural industry, as well as for the pollination of alfalfa.[64] It is known that members of this species pollinate up to 65 different species of plants, and it is the primary pollinator of key dietary crops, such as cranberries, plums, apples, onions, and alfalfa.[65]

M. rotundata was unintentionally introduced into the United States during the 1940s, and its management as a pollinator of alfalfa has led to a three-fold increase in seed production in the U.S. The synchronous emergence of the adult bees of this species during alfalfa blooming period in combination with such behaviors as gregarious nesting, and utilization of leaves and nesting materials that have been mass-produced by humans provide positive benefits for the use of these bees in pollinating alfalfa.[66]


Alfalfa square bales
Small square bales of alfalfa

Considerable research and development has been done with this important plant. Older cultivars such as 'Vernal' have been the standard for years, but many better public and private varieties better adapted to particular climates are available.[67] Private companies release many new varieties each year in the US.[68]

Most varieties go dormant in the fall, with reduced growth in response to low temperatures and shorter days.[68] 'Nondormant' varieties that grow through the winter are planted in long-season environments such as Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California, whereas 'dormant' varieties are planted in the Upper Midwest, Canada, and the Northeast.[68] 'Nondormant' varieties can be higher-yielding, but they are susceptible to winter-kill in cold climates and have poorer persistence.[68]

Most alfalfa cultivars contain genetic material from sickle medick (M. falcata), a crop wild relative of alfalfa that naturally hybridizes with M. sativa to produce sand lucerne (M. sativa ssp. varia). This species may bear either the purple flowers of alfalfa or the yellow of sickle medick, and is so called for its ready growth in sandy soil.[69] Traits for insect resistance have also been introduced from M. glomerata and M. prostrata, members of alfalfa's secondary gene pool.[70]

Watering alfalfa field
Watering an alfalfa field

Most of the improvements in alfalfa over the last decades have consisted of better disease resistance on poorly drained soils in wet years, better ability to overwinter in cold climates, and the production of more leaves. Multileaf alfalfa varieties have more than three leaflets per leaf.[71]

Alfalfa growers or lucerne growers have a suite of varieties or cultivars to choose from in the seed marketplace and base their selection on a number of factors including the dormancy or activity rating, crown height, fit for purpose (i.e., hay production or grazing), disease resistance, insect pest resistance, forage yield, fine leafed varieties and a combination of many favourable attributes. Plant breeding efforts use scientific methodology and technology to strive for new improved varieties.

The L. Teweles Seed Company claimed it created the world's first hybrid alfalfa.[72]

Wisconsin and California and many other states publish alfalfa variety trial data. A complete listing of state variety testing data is provided by the North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference (NAAIC) State Listing, as well as additional detailed alfalfa genetic and variety data published by NAAIC.

Genetic modification

Roundup Ready alfalfa, a genetically modified variety, was released by Forage Genetics International in 2005. This was developed through the insertion of a gene owned by Monsanto Company that confers resistance to glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, also known as Roundup. Although most grassy and broadleaf plants, including ordinary alfalfa, are killed by Roundup, growers can spray fields of Roundup Ready alfalfa with the glyphosate herbicide and kill the weeds without harming the alfalfa crop.

Legal issues in the US

In 2005, after completing a 28-page environmental assessment (EA)[73] the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA) nonregulated status[74] under Code of Federal Regulations Title 7 Part 340,[75] called, "Introduction of Organisms and Products Altered or Produced Through Genetic Engineering Which Are Plant Pests or Which There Is Reason to Believe Are Plant Pests", which regulates, among other things, the introduction (importation, interstate movement, or release into the environment) of organisms and products altered or produced through genetic engineering that are plant pests or that there is reason to believe are plant pests. Monsanto had to seek deregulation to conduct field trials of RRA, because the RRA contains a promoter sequence derived from the plant pathogen figwort mosaic virus.[73] The USDA granted the application for deregulation, stating that the RRA with its modifications: "(1) Exhibit no plant pathogenic properties; (2) are no more likely to become weedy than the nontransgenic parental line or other cultivated alfalfa; (3) are unlikely to increase the weediness potential of any other cultivated or wild species with which it can interbreed; (4) will not cause damage to raw or processed agricultural commodities; (5) will not harm threatened or endangered species or organisms that are beneficial to agriculture; and (6) should not reduce the ability to control pests and weeds in alfalfa or other crops."[73] Monsanto started selling RRA and within two years, more than 300,000 acres were devoted to the plant in the US.[76]

The granting of deregulation was opposed by many groups, including growers of non-GM alfalfa who were concerned about gene flow into their crops.[73] In 2006, the Center for Food Safety, a US non-governmental organization that is a critic of biotech crops, and others, challenged this deregulation in the California Northern District Court.[77] Organic growers were concerned that the GM alfalfa could cross-pollinate with their organic alfalfa, making their crops unsalable in countries that ban the growing of GM crops.[78] The District Court ruled that the USDA's EA did not address two issues concerning RRA's effect on the environment,[79] and in 2007, required the USDA to complete a much more extensive environmental impact statement (EIS). Until the EIS was completed, they banned further planting of RRA but allowed land already planted to continue.[76][80] The USDA proposed a partial deregulation of RRA but this was also rejected by the District Court.[77] Planting of RRA was halted.

In June 2009, a divided three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court's decision.[81] Monsanto and others appealed to the US Supreme Court.[81]

On 21 June 2010, in Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, the Supreme Court overturned the District Court decision to ban planting RRA nationwide as there was no evidence of irreparable injury.[82] They ruled that the USDA could partially deregulate RRA before an EIS was completed. The Supreme Court did not consider the District Court's ruling disallowing RRA's deregulation and consequently RRA was still a regulated crop waiting for USDA's completion of an EIS.[77]

This decision was welcomed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council, and National Potato Council.[83] In July 2010, 75 members of Congress from both political parties sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to immediately allow limited planting of genetically engineered alfalfa.[84][85] However the USDA did not issue interim deregulatory measures, instead focusing on completing the EIS. Their 2,300-page EIS was published in December 2010.[86] It concluded that RRA would not affect the environment.

Three of the biggest natural food brands in the USA lobbied for a partial deregulation of RRA,[87] but in January 2011, despite protests from organic groups, Secretary Vilsack announced that the USDA had approved the unrestricted planting of genetically modified alfalfa and planting resumed.[88][89][90] Secretary Vilsack commented, "After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa ... APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa."[91] About 20 million acres (8 million hectares) of alfalfa were grown in the US, the fourth-biggest crop by acreage, of which about 1% were organic. Some biotechnology officials forecast that half of the US alfalfa acreage could eventually be planted with GM alfalfa.[92]

The National Corn Growers Association,[93] the American Farm Bureau Federation,[94] and the Council for Biotech Information[95] warmly applauded this decision. Christine Bushway, CEO of the Organic Trade Association, said, "A lot of people are shell-shocked. While we feel Secretary Vilsack worked on this issue, which is progress, this decision puts our organic farmers at risk."[92] The Organic Trade Association issued a press release in 2011 saying that the USDA recognized the impact that cross-contamination could have on organic alfalfa and urged them to place restrictions to minimize any such contamination.[96] However, organic farming groups, organic food outlets, and activists responded by publishing an open letter saying that planting the "alfalfa without any restrictions flies in the face of the interests of conventional and organic farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice."[97] Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee,[98] House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas[98] and Senator Richard Lugar [99] issued statements strongly supporting the decision "... giving growers the green light to begin planting an abundant, affordable and safe crop" and giving farmers and consumers the choice ... in planting or purchasing food grown with GM technology, conventionally, or organically." In a Joint Statement, US Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter DeFazio said the USDA had the "opportunity to address the concerns of all farmers", but instead "surrender[ed] to business as usual for the biotech industry."[100]

The non-profit Center for Food Safety appealed this decision in March 2011[101][102] but the District Court for Northern California rejected this motion in 2012.[103]

Phytoestrogens in alfalfa

Alfalfa, like other leguminous crops, is a known source of phytoestrogens,[104] including spinasterol,[105] coumestrol, and coumestan.[106] Because of this, grazing on alfalfa has caused reduced fertility in sheep and in dairy cattle.[106]

Toxicity of canavanine

Raw alfalfa seeds and sprouts are a source of the amino acid canavanine. Much of the canavanine is converted into other amino acids during germination so sprouts contain much less canavanine than unsprouted seeds.[107] Canavanine competes with arginine, resulting in the synthesis of dysfunctional proteins. Raw unsprouted alfalfa has toxic effects in primates, including humans, which can result in lupus-like symptoms and other immunological diseases in susceptible individuals,[108][109] and sprouts also produced these symptoms in at least some primates when fed a diet made of 40% alfalfa. Stopping consumption of alfalfa seeds can reverse the effects.[110]

Nutritional value

Sprouted Alfalfa
Sprouted alfalfa seeds

Alfalfa is rich in chlorophyll, carotene, protein, calcium and other minerals, vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.[111][112][113] The sun-dried hay of alfalfa has been found to be a source of vitamin D, containing 48 ng/g (1920 IU/kg) vitamin D2 and 0.63 ng/g (25 IU/kg) vitamin D3.[114] There is reference to vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 being found in the alfalfa shoot; this is awaiting verification.[115]


Alfalfa seeds, sprouted, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy96 kJ (23 kcal)
2.1 g
Dietary fiber1.9 g
0.7 g
4 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Thiamine (B1)
0.076 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.126 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.481 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.563 mg
Vitamin B6
0.034 mg
Folate (B9)
36 μg
Vitamin C
8.2 mg
Vitamin K
30.5 μg
MineralsQuantity %DV
32 mg
0.96 mg
27 mg
0.188 mg
70 mg
79 mg
6 mg
0.92 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Sprouting alfalfa seeds is the process of germinating seeds for consumption usually involving just water and a jar. However, the seeds and sprouts must be rinsed regularly to avoid the accumulation of the products of decay organisms along with smells of rot and discoloration. Sprouting alfalfa usually takes three to four days with one tablespoon of seed yielding up to three full cups of sprouts.[116]

Health effects

The United States National Institutes of Health (US NIH) reports there is "Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness [of alfalfa] for" the following:[117]

  • High cholesterol. Taking alfalfa seeds seems to lower total cholesterol and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in people with high cholesterol levels.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Bladder problems.
  • Prostate problems.
  • Asthma.
  • Arthritis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Other conditions.

Further, the US NIH has identified several safety concerns and medication interactions. US NIH summarizes:

Alfalfa leaves are POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults. However, taking alfalfa seeds long-term is LIKELY UNSAFE. Alfalfa seed products may cause reactions that are similar to the autoimmune disease called lupus erythematosus.

Alfalfa might also cause some people's skin to become extra sensitive to the sun.[117]

As noted above, raw unsprouted alfalfa has toxic effects in primates, including humans, which can result in lupus-like symptoms and other immunological diseases in susceptible individuals,[108][109][117] US NIH calls out special precautions and warnings for the following:[117]

  • Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Using alfalfa in amounts larger than what is commonly found in food is possibly unsafe during pregnancy and breast-feeding. There is some evidence that alfalfa may act like estrogen, and this might affect the pregnancy.
  • Auto-immune Diseases: Alfalfa might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of these diseases.
  • Hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids:) Alfalfa might have the same effects as the female hormone estrogen.
  • Diabetes: Alfalfa might lower blood sugar levels.
  • Kidney transplant: There is one report of a kidney transplant rejection following the three-month use of a supplement that contained alfalfa and black cohosh. This outcome is more likely due to alfalfa than black cohosh. Alfalfa's immune system boost might make the anti-rejection drug cyclosporine less effective.

US NIH warns that alfalfa interacts with Warfarin (Coumadin) in a major way; the two should not be combined.[117] US NIH warns that alfalfa interacts with the following medicine types moderately; the user should be cautious when taking alfalfa with these:[117]

  • Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs)
  • Estrogens – Large amounts of alfalfa might have some of the same effects as estrogen. However even large amounts of alfalfa are not as strong as estrogen pills. Taking alfalfa along with estrogen pills might decrease the effects of estrogen pills.
  • Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
  • Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
  • Medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight (Photosensitizing drugs)

US NIH warns that alfalfa may interact with herbs and supplements associated with the following:[117]

  • Those that might lower blood sugar
  • Iron
  • Vitamin E

Refer to [117] for the most current information and details.


Lucerne flowers

Medicago sativa

Medicago sativa Alfals006

M. sativa

Medicago sativa 02 bgiu

M. sativa


M. sativa




Yellow flowers


Light violet flowers

Alfalfa frutos-1

M. sativa var. sativa, mature fruits

Mesa 002 lhp

Seeds (actual size ≈2mm)

Scythe in lucern field

Lucerne field

ARS Megachile rotundata

Bee on alfalfa flower


  1. ^ illustration from Amédée Masclef - Atlas des plantes de France. 1891
  2. ^ "Medicago sativa – ILDIS LegumeWeb". Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  3. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 3 October 2014.
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External links

Alfalfa, Alabama

Alfalfa is an unincorporated community in Marengo County, Alabama, United States. Alfalfa had a post office at one time, but it no longer exists.

Alfalfa, Oklahoma

Alfalfa is an unincorporated community in western Caddo County, Oklahoma, United States. Alfalfa is located on Oklahoma State Highway 58 8 miles (13 km) north of Carnegie. Fort Cobb Lake and state park are about five miles to the east.The community was so named on account of alfalfa fields near the original town site.

Alfalfa, Oregon

Alfalfa is an unincorporated community in Deschutes County, Oregon, United States, in the high desert 16 miles (26 km) east of Bend. Alfalfa was named for the primary forage crop grown there under irrigation. Alfalfa had a post office from 1912 until 1922. The ranching community has a population of about 400 families.Alfalfa's 80-day growing season limits the local ranchers to growing grass and alfalfa, and because the crop yields are so low, the grass is considered somewhat more suitable for grazing livestock—most commonly cattle—than for haying. The Alfalfa irrigation district was formed in the early 1900s, and many of the local ranch houses date to that time. The Central Oregon Canal passes through the community.Alfalfa is sixteen miles east of Bend, but has a Bend zip code. With potential zoning changes that came with the passage of Measure 37, the community's rural character appeared it may change from being primarily agricultural to residential, but Measure 49 reversed nearly all of Measure 37, and today Alfalfa continues to be a primarily agricultural area.

Alfalfa Grade School was founded in 1911 and closed in 1987. At the time the one-teacher, two-room school closed, it served 18 students in kindergarten through second grade. Now, despite being closer to Bend, all public school students from Alfalfa attend school in Redmond.The hub of the community is the Alfalfa Store. Alfalfa Grange is a historic grange hall, also known as the Alfalfa Community Hall. Deschutes County considers the 1930 building a historic landmark. The hall is the meeting location of the Alfalfa Community Church.

Alfalfa County, Oklahoma

Alfalfa County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,642. The county seat is Cherokee.Alfalfa County was formed at statehood in 1907 from Woods County. The county is named after William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, the president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention and ninth governor of Oklahoma. He was instrumental creating the county from the original, much larger Woods county.

Carl Switzer

Carl Dean Switzer (August 7, 1927 – January 21, 1959) was an American singer, child actor, dog breeder and guide. He was best known for his role as Alfalfa in the short subjects series Our Gang.

Switzer began his career as a child actor in the mid-1930s appearing in the Our Gang short subjects series as Alfalfa, one of the series' most popular and best-remembered characters. After leaving the series in 1940, Switzer struggled to find substantial roles owing to typecasting. As an adult, he appeared mainly in bit parts and B-movies. He later became a dog breeder and hunting guide.

Switzer married in 1954 and had one son before divorcing in 1957. In January 1959, he was fatally shot by an acquaintance in a dispute over money.

Cherokee, Oklahoma

Cherokee is a city and county seat of Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 1,498 at the 2010 census, a loss of 8.1 percent from 1,630 at the 2000 census.

Granger, Washington

Granger is a city in Yakima County, Washington, United States. The population was 3,246 at the 2010 census. Although it was classified as a town in 2000, it has since been reclassified as a city.


A legume () is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or the fruit or seed of such a plant (also called a pulse). Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for human consumption, for livestock forage and silage, and as soil-enhancing green manure. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts, and tamarind. Legumes produce a botanically unique type of fruit – a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces (opens along a seam) on two sides. A common name for this type of fruit is a pod, although the term "pod" is also applied to a number of other fruit types, such as that of vanilla (a capsule) and of the radish (a silique).

Legumes are notable in that most of them have symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria in structures called root nodules. For that reason, they play a key role in crop rotation.


The genus Megachile is a cosmopolitan group of solitary bees, often called leafcutter bees or leafcutting bees; it also includes the called resin bees and mortar bees. While other genera within the family Megachilidae may chew leaves or petals into fragments to build their nests, certain species within Megachile neatly cut pieces of leaves or petals, hence their common name. This is one of the largest genera of bees, with more than 1500 species in over 50 subgenera. North America has many native Megachile species. The introduced alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata) is managed for crop pollination.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma

This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma.

This is intended to be a complete list of the properties on the National Register of Historic Places in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, United States. The locations of National Register properties for which the latitude and longitude coordinates are included below, may be seen in a map.There are 12 properties listed on the National Register in the county.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted May 10, 2019.

Pay as You Exit

Pay as You Exit is a 1936 Our Gang short comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas. It was the 148th Our Gang short that was released.

Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches introduced 1982–1983

The following is a list of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches introduced between September 25, 1982, and May 14, 1983, the eighth season of SNL.

Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States system of National Wildlife Refuges. It is located in Alfalfa County in northern Oklahoma, north of Jet (pop. 230), along Great Salt Plains Lake, which is formed by a dam on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River.

The refuge was established March 26, 1930 by executive order of President Herbert Hoover and contains 32,080 acres (130 km2) of protected land as habitat to approximately 312 species of birds and 30 species of mammals. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in June 1983.

The Little Rascals (animated TV series)

The Little Rascals is a 30-minute Saturday morning animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and King World Productions. It first aired on ABC on September 25, 1982. A spin-off based on the live-action Our Gang comedy shorts, it was broadcast as part of The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show in 1982 and then as part of The Monchhichis/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show in 1983.

The characters were designed by Iwao Takamoto and Bob Singer by using tracing paper on top of actual photographs of the real-life characters, and used a pencil to sketch the characters. The same technique was also used in previous Hanna-Barbera spin-offs such as Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and Laverne and Shirley in the Army.

The Little Rascals (film)

The Little Rascals is a 1994 American family comedy film produced by Amblin Entertainment, and released by Universal Pictures on August 5, 1994. The film is an adaptation of Hal Roach's Our Gang, a series of short films of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s (many of which were broadcast on television as The Little Rascals) which centered on the adventures of a group of neighborhood children. The film, with a screenplay by Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur, and Penelope Spheeris – who also directed – presents several of the Our Gang characters in an updated setting, and features re-interpretations of several of the original shorts. It was the first collaboration by Guay and Mazur, whose subsequent comedies were Liar Liar and Heartbreakers.

Another film based on Our Gang, The Little Rascals Save the Day, was released as a direct-to-video feature in 2014.

The Little Rascals Save the Day

The Little Rascals Save the Day is a 2014 American direct-to-video comedy film released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film is the second motion picture film succeeding the major 1994 film, and it is an adaptation of Hal Roach's Our Gang, a series of short films of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s (many of which were broadcast on television as The Little Rascals) which centered on the adventures of a group of neighborhood children.

With a screenplay by William Robertson and Alex Zamm – who also directed – The Little Rascals Save The Day presents several of the Our Gang characters in an updated setting, and features re-interpretations of several of the original shorts. It is the second of Universal's feature-length Our Gang adaptations, following 1994's theatrical release The Little Rascals.


Tiurana is a municipality in the comarca of Noguera, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain.

It is home to a late-Gothic parish church, built in 1545. Outside the hamlet is a Romanesque hermitage dedicate to St. Ermengol.

The economy is based on agriculture (wheat, potatoes, alfalfa, and vegetables).


Torrelameu is a municipality in the comarca of Noguera, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain.

Economy is based on agriculture (cereals, wheat, maize, potatoes, vegetables, alfalfa, vines and others) and animal husbandry.

William H. Murray

William Henry Davis "Alfalfa Bill" Murray (November 21, 1869 – October 15, 1956) was an American educator, lawyer, and politician who became active in Oklahoma before statehood as legal adviser to Governor Douglas H. Johnston of the Chickasaw Nation. Although not American Indian, he was appointed by Johnston as the Chickasaw delegate to the Convention for the proposed State of Sequoyah, and was later elected as a delegate to the 1906 constitutional convention for the proposed state of Oklahoma.

Murray was elected as the first Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives after statehood, as U.S. Representative, and as the ninth Governor of Oklahoma (1931–1935). His campaign was marked by racist appeal and he supported Jim Crow laws. During his tenure as governor in years of the Great Depression, he established a record for the number of times he used the National Guard to perform duties in the state and for declaring martial law.

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