What is in this article?:
- Welcome rains bring unwanted cutworms to Southeast New Mexico
- History of Alfalfa in New Mexico
- Pest management program
- Cutworm scouting is best defense
- Cutworms could threaten New Mexico alfalfa.
- Conditions may favor cutworm survival.
- Alfalfa is New Mexico’s top crop.
History of Alfalfa in New Mexico
Introduced first by the Spanish in the 1500s, alfalfa has long played an important role in New Mexico's agriculture industry. By 1967, alfalfa had become the most important cash crop in the state and accelerated in value to a peak of nearly $150 million in 1984.
Agricultural statistics showed that by 1920 there were 128,000 acres of alfalfa in New Mexico. Acreage then declined to 80,000 in 1935 and, thereafter, increased to a maximum of 270,000 acres in 1981. Total production ranged from a low of approximately 200,000 tons in 1935 to a high of 1.33 million tons in 1984.
In 1996, New Mexico farmers produced nearly 1.38 million tons of alfalfa on 255,000 acres. The average alfalfa hay yield for the state in 1996 was 5.40 tons per acre compared to 4.30 tons in 1980 (New Mexico Agricultural Statistics). Using a season average price of $126.00 per ton, the value of the 1996 New Mexico alfalfa crop was approximately $173.5 million.
Last year (2012), USDA reports 285,000 acres of all hay varieties (200,000 of alfalfa) was produced yielding 4.75 tons per acre (5.5 tons per acre for alfalfa). In all, 1.355 million tons of hay was produced of which 1.1 million tons were alfalfa varieties.
Because of irrigation and climate, New Mexico generally produces between three to eight cuttings of alfalfa, with six cuttings generally accepted as the best to produce high quality alfalfa for dairy use. Currently in the southeast region growers are cutting their third alfalfa crop and in Eddy County a few are reporting they have started their fourth cutting of the year.