In 2013, a Cornell University research team funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is taking a proactive approach to brown root rot (BRR), a fungus that damages alfalfa crops. The disease was first discovered in the eastern U.S. in Northern New York in 2004 at Chazy.
Research leader Dr. Julie L. Hansen, with the Cornell University Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, says, “We have begun breeding BRR-resistant alfalfa to identify the most commercially-viable varieties under Northern New York field conditions.”
Hansen; Cornell plant breeder Dr. Donald Viands, and research support specialist Jamie Crawford are using cuttings of plants that survived significant 2011-2012 winter ice-sheeting and BRR at the Miner Institute in Chazy to breed a genetic capacity for BRR resistance into future generations of alfalfa.
“Based on data from western Canada where brown root rot has long been a problem for alfalfa producers, the breeding of BRR-resistant alfalfa varieties can help Northern New York growers stem stand losses and regain yield and profitability,” Hansen says.