Alfalfa Production Alternatives Study

In Sierra Valley; and possibly other groundwater basins in the UFRW; alfalfa production is prevalent and is currently a lucrative crop. (Water-intensive alfalfa hay represents 30-40% of field crops (by value) grown in Plumas and Sierra Counties; according to the 2011 Crop Report.) It is also a water-intensive crop grown in an arid region. With less snowpack (and therefore less water predicted to be available); and in view of prolonged drought; climate change and dropping groundwater levels and overdraft observed in the monitored Sierra Valley basin; alternative production possibilities that maintain the agricultural heritage of the watershed without increasing risks to producer viability; community values and natural resources; need to be explored. This concept proposal includes feasibility research and systematic exploration and experimentation (pilot testing) of alternative crops and methodologies to existing alfalfa production and methods employed in Sierra Valley that could be accomplished without too much upset to the operations and viability of producers.

This project supports the following UFR IRWM Goals:
Protect and improve the economy of the region and provide healthy and adequate water and wastewater treatment for all citizens; including disadvantaged communities and Native Americans.
Protect and enhance the health and economic viability of working landscapes.

During 2005-2011; the pumpage averaged about 7;800 acre-feet per year; greater than the estimated safe yield? Metered pumpage records indicate that the safe yield is about 6;000 acre-feet per year in the part of the valley now tapped by large-capacity supply wellsù ? Technical Report on 2005 ? 2011 Hydrogeologic Evaluation for Sierra Valley.
Sponsoring Agency
Sierra Valley RCD / UC Cooperative Extension
Primary Contact
Rick Roberti
Contact Email
Project Number
Matching Funds
Total Cost
DAC Benefit
Supplemental Information
The issue of alfalfa clearly extends beyond Sierra Valley. Alternatives identified and proven could have beneficial impacts well beyond the project area.
DWR Resource Management Strategies
Agricultural land stewardship, Agricultural Water Use Efficiency, Watershed management
Project Objectives
Address economic challenges of agricultural producers, Coordinate management of recharge areas and protect groundwater, Effectively address climate change adaptation and/or mitigation in water resources management, Improve coordination of land use and water resources planning, Improve efficiency and reliability of water supply and infrastructure, Maximize agricultural, environmental, and municipal water use efficiency, Work with counties/communities/groups to maintain capacity for water-related projects
Project Status
Potential Benefits
Assist the region in adapting to effects of climate change, Disadvantaged Communities, Drought Preparedness, Generation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. green technology)
Project Owner

To the owner of Alfalfa Production Alternatives Study

1 resource

  • ALS-12 1 file Added 27 Aug 2016 Alfalfa alternative