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Alfalfa Improvement in Oman – Prospect and Procedures

List of Contents

1.     Introduction 3
1.1 General Introduction 3
1.2 Alfalfa improvement in Oman – Prospect and Procedures 4
1.2.1 Why Medicago sativa? 4
1.2.2 Present Position 4
1.2.3 Alfalfa Growing Regions 5
1.2.4

1.2.5

1.2.6

Alfafa: A perennial legume

Improvement objectives for cultivar development

Constraints in Alfalfa Improvement                                          11

 

6

8

1.3     Problems related to a biotic and biotic management factors 12
1.3.1 Soil and Water Salinity 12
1.3.2

1.3.3

1.3.4

1.3.5

Water Scarcity

Diseases                                                                                     14

Insect pests                                                                          15

Nematodes                                                                           15

13
1.4      Mechanization 15
1.5     Agronomic Characters 16
1.5.1    Effects of salinity on physiologic parameters 16
1.6 Alfalfa’s Genetic Diversity 17
  1.6.1 Genetic Mapping 17
1.7    Experimental Aims 24
2.    Materials and Methods 19
2.1      Recordings and Observations 19
2.1.1 Agronomic Characters 20
2.1.2 Determination of Ionic concentration in plant tissues 20
2.1.3 Determination of phosphorus 20
2.1.4 Determination of total potassium, Na, Ca and M 21
2.1.5  Determination of Chloride 21
2.2    Molecular studies 22
2.2.1 SSR Analysis 22
2.2.2 Statistical Analysis 23
2.2.3 Phenotypic Data Analysis 23
2.2.4 Genomic DNA Extraction 23
2.2.5 Pre and Post Selective PCR 24
2.2.6 Fragment Analysis 24
2.2.7 Genetic Distance Estimates and Cluster Analysis 24
3.    Results and Discussion 25
3.1   
3.2   
3.3   
3.4   
3.5          
3.6   
4.    Conclusions and Further work 25
4.1    Conclusions         25
4.2    Further work 25
 5.   References 26
6.    Appendices

1. Introduction

1.1 General Introduction

In Arid and semi arid lands, farmers depend solely on animal husbandry to cater for their livelihoods. In this regard, they practice large scale ranching in which they keep wide ranging livestock species. Limited rainfall greatly undermines their ability to explore other forms of farming effectively. For sustainable animal farming, they focus on plants that are highly productive. Certainly, forages of high digestibility and nutritive value enable them to reap optimally from these farming practices. This is at the core of their sustainable economic goals and objectives. Just like other farmers inhabiting arid and semi arid lands, farmers in Sultanate of Oman explore animal husbandry to sustain their livelihoods. This requires them to produce high quality forage for their animals in order to benefit optimally from the same. Alfalfa, scientifically, known as medicago sativa offers the best option for this. Michaud et al. (1988) stated that it is difficult to define precisely when and how alfalfa spread and reached various countries and areas. They explained that maritime trade was well developed in the eastern Mediterranean as early as 4000 B.C., which could have contributed to the spread of alfalfa and may have resulted in significant mixture of hybridization of ecotypes from widely separated regions.

Evidence of the ancient introductions of alfalfa into the Arabian Gulf is found in strongly marked characteristics of Arabian varieties which resulted from centuries of acclimatization in the arid region leading to the evolution of many unique local ecotypes of this crop. Relatively little use has been made of Middle Eastern alfalfa germplasm in formal breeding programs largely because variations among accessions from this region have not been systematically described or made widely available (Smith et al., 1995)

1.2 Alfalfa improvement in Oman – Prospect and Procedures

1.2.1 Why Medicago Sativa?

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), the Queen of forage crops, forms an integral part of farm life in the Sultanate. Every farmer desires to grow it at least in small pieces of land depending on his holding to feed his goats, cattle or camels. Alfalfa plays a vital role in the agricultural economy of the country. In this regard, it accounts for almost half of the agricultural output (by value). It is the best quality feed for livestock as well as horses, contributing significantly to the quality of animal products.  Nationally, it ranks top amongst the agricultural crops and has an annual production of an estimated 8.1 US dollars. Alfalfa forage is produced (harvested) throughout the year but it is higher during winter and low in summer.

It is a remarkable crop in comparison with others. Alfalfa is recognized as the most widely adapted agronomic crop, effective source of biological nitrogen (N2) fixation, energy efficient- crop to grow, important source of protein yield/ha and attractive source of nectar for honeybees. In addition to being an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, it is important for improving soil tilth (Barnes et .al., 1984). It is believed that alfalfa originated in South Western Asia (near Iran) but related forms and species are found scattered over central Asia as far north as Siberia. It was carried from Iran to Arabian Gulf, the Mediterranean countries and finally into Europe, America and Australia by traders, invading armies, explorers and missionaries as a valuable source of feed for horses and other animals. Evidence of the ancient introductions of alfalfa into the Arabian gulf is found in strongly marked characteristics of Arabian varieties resulted from centuries of acclimatization in the arid region. Few authors consider Arabian Peninsula as secondary center of diversity.

1.2.2 Present Position

The Sultanate of Oman, being the third largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, has 73670.59 ha of agricultural land under cultivation of which fruits occupy a significant 50.33 % followed by perennial fodders (22.03 %), vegetables (8.41 %) and field crops (19.23 %). The total production, however, is shared highest by perennial fodders (53.09 %) followed by fruits (27.16 %), vegetables (15.67 %) and grain crops (4.08 %) (MoA, 2010). The fodder demand in the Sultanate is mostly met by the local production of alfalfa and Rhodes grass.

Table 1. Area and Distribution of Alfalfa in Oman1 (1995 data)

  Sl.No.         Region Cultivated Area (ha) Area under alfalfa (ha) % of alfalfa area
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

South Batinah

North Batinah

Sharqiya

Al-Wasta

Dhofar

Muscat

Dhahira

Interior

Musandam

       11678

20643

7537

13

2822

3377

9421

6897

796

        2411

3190

787

3

66

623

1662

1009

15

       20.65

15.45

10.44

23.08

2.34

18.45

17.64

14.63

1.88

Total              —        63184         9766        15.46
  1. Department of Agriculture Statistics, Directorate General Planning and Projects, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sultanate of Oman

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) forms an integral part of farm life in the Sultanate, as every farmer desires to grow it at least in small piece of land depending on his holding to feed his goat, sheep, cattle or camel, thus contributing about 11344 ha i.e. 15.40 percent of cultivated area (MAF, 1997). This feature seems to be common case throughout the Arabian Peninsula. It is grown widely in Batinah, Salalah plains, Interior and desert plains of Nejd. The region wise distribution cultivated area of alfalfa in the country is presented in Table 1.

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