A successful TCP project in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in China to advise on improved management of alfalfa has many lessons for other regions of China, as well as other countries. In addition to finding that old stands of alfalfa need to be replanted and management practices improved, the project produced an Alfalfa Management Guide for Ningxia and also a Training Manual for Participatory Learning in Alfalfa Agronomy and IPM. High-quality curricula for training practitioners (training of trainers – TOT - and facilitators – TOF) and farmers (farmer field schools – FFS) were developed by the national consultants integrating all areas of alfalfa agronomy, pests, diseases and IPM strategies.
With the manual on seed production from an earlier TCP project in Xinjiang Production of Alfalfa Seed in Xinjiang there is now a wealth of information available on-line (and in Chinese on local websites and publications) to assist China and neighbouring countries with alfalfa establishment, management, harvesting and storage.
Alfalfa was originally widely planted as part of a programme of returning cropland to forest and pasture because the Government of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region realized that planting and development of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an important strategic measure in improving the ecological environment of the region while raising the living standard of the rural population and promoting livestock development.
The alfalfa situation and production practices in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region were thoroughly assessed by local, national and international experts and two in-depth surveys of 96 farmers provided very relevant information of farmer demographics, practices and needs. Alfalfa stands sown in 2000-2002 have declined rapidly to low levels of productivity, therefore Ningxia needs to prepare for large-scale alfalfa planting; this will include a considerable demand for published information on alfalfa agronomy and IPM and large quantities of high-quality seed. Technology packages for sustainable alfalfa production have been developed by the project.
During the final workshop a medium-term plan was developed with participation from farmers’ communities and approved by local authorities for sustainable alfalfa production in Ningxia Hui. The document, “Contributions Toward a Medium Term Plan to Sustain and Enhance Alfalfa Production in Ningxia”, was drafted from the inputs of a diverse group of grassland, alfalfa and pest management specialists and managers from four counties, three Ningxia bureaus, and two national and international organizations. While the medium term plan requires broader review and discussion, early implementation is necessary due to the need to replace old alfalfa stands, the high value of alfalfa and forages, and the increasing demand by farmers for improved technology to produce alfalfa.