Field studies with two types of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) cultivars were conducted at Lethbridge in 2012 and 2013 and at Picture Butte in 2012 to determine the effects of irrigation on the dry matter (DM) yield and on net returns. The irrigated cultivars (Longview and Blue J) and dryland cultivars (Rangelander and Rambler) were arranged on plots in a randomized complete block design with four irrigation treatments and replicated five times. For the optimal irrigation treatment (W1), soil water content was maintained between 60 and 90% of available water in the designated root zone. Other irrigation treatments received 75% (W2), 50% (W3), and 25% (W4) of the irrigation water applied to the optimal treatment. The mean DM yields of irrigated alfalfa cultivars were greater than one of the dryland cultivars in both locations. The mean total DM yields for W2 and W3 at Lethbridge for Blue J, Longview and Rambler were greater than those of W1, although the differences were not always significant. The net returns, calculated by using the same price for all alfalfa harvests were similar across the cultivars and irrigation treatments excepting Rangelander, where the returns were lower. The results obtained from this study indicated a trend towards comparable yields and net returns between the optimal and the 75% irrigation treatment with 40% depletion of available water at the root zone, for the irrigated alfalfa cultivars and a dryland type Rambler.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2