Selection for increased forage yield in alfalfa at different NaCl levels

D. W. Johnson, S. E. Smith, A. K. Dobrenz

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24 Scopus citations


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) forage yield may be reduced by moderate levels of salinity. Increasing forage yield in saline environments through plant breeding could partially ameliorate this problem. However, prior indirect selection either in cell culture, at germination, or during seedling growth has not resulted in agronomically relevant levels of salt tolerance. This study was conducted to determine whether mean forage yield of alfalfa grown in saline environments could be increased. To reduce the number of possible selection schemes, forage yield data for five harvests from 'Sonora' and its parental cultivar 'African' grown in a greenhouse and irrigated with 0, 30, 60, or 80 mM NaCl were used to simulate one cycle of selection at each NaCl environment. Greatest gains in forage yield were expected under non-saline conditions with decreased gains under saline conditions. Selection based on yield in regrowth harvests was also predicted to be more efficient than that based on seedling harvest. Experimental populations were developed from Sonora and African at each NaCl level using phenotypic selection for increased mean forage yield for harvests 3 to 5. After each of two cycles of selection, forage yield from selected, control (plants selected randomly under non-saline conditions), and parental populations was evaluated at 0, 30, 60, and 80 mM NaCl. Gains in forage yield were observed in African when the selection and evaluation environments were the same, but in Sonora this was observed only at 0 NaCl. Selection at 0 NaCl did not increase forage yield at 60 or 80 mM NaCl in either germplasm source. This suggests that selection for increased forage yield may be successful at low to moderate NaCl levels in germplasm with ample variation for yield when grown in saline environments, while selection for increased forage yield in non-saline conditions may be ineffective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1992


  • Medicago sativa
  • alfalfa
  • heritability
  • lucerne
  • salt tolerance
  • simulated selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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