With nearly 4 million ha, Argentina is at present one the largest alfalfa producers in the world. Approximately 80% of the total alfalfa area is cultivated under rain-fed conditions for dairy, beef and hay production in the Pampas Region, while the remaining 20% is devoted to hay and seed production under irrigation in the Northwestern, Western and Patagonia regions. During the 2015/16 growing season, about 1 million ha were cut for hay, an industry that is becoming increasingly important for both domestic and international markets. The country has large areas with very favorable environmental conditions for producing high alfalfa yields of very good quality. It has decades of experience and a great deal of knowledge on the crop, as well as very active breeding programs and quick access to updated technology. Overall, Argentina is likely the only country in the world that can easily increase the planting area of alfalfa in the near future for producing high quality alfalfa hay.
Just in the Central-Eastern part of Córdoba Province, adjacent to the proposed location for the World Alfalfa Congress, there are about 40,000 ha devoted exclusively to the production of high quality alfalfa hay under rain-fed conditions. Average yields are 12-14 t DM ha-1 year-1 (5.35 to 6.25 ton ac-1) under a 6-cut system. Several companies in the region produce and/or buy alfalfa for making large square bales (400 kg), re-compacted (800 kg) bales, and pellets. Bales are for both domestic use and for export, mostly to United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia (SA), and more recently China. Similarly, pellets are produced for the internal market as well as for export, primarily to Latin America. The incorporation of strategic, supplemental irrigation can be useful for increasing and stabilizing alfalfa yields in the rain-fed area. In addition, there is a company that is presently building a dehydration plant to stabilize quality.
The proposed program for the World Alfalfa Congress includes a tour through this highly productive Córdoba area in order to enjoy the opportunity to take a direct look on the alfalfa hay production in Argentina and its great potential.