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Young Alfalfas

Preventing and Managing Dodder in Alfalfa

Dodder has impacted alfalfa production since the 1950s. Prevention begins with certified seeds as only the destruction of the host plant allows its eradication.

Tips for preventing and managing dodder in alfalfa. 

A parasitic plant, dodder, has impacted alfalfa production since the 1950s. Its capacity to proliferate very quickly and the long-lived nature of the seeds in the soil make it highly problematic for producers.

What is Dodder?

  • Dodder is a non-chlorophyll-producing parasitic weed.
  • Dodder’s filaments have suckers which directly tap into alfalfa’s nutrients.
  • The filaments of dodder grow quickly to form clusters in the fields that form large circles in plots, which strangle the alfalfa.
  • A lot of other plants are sensitive to dodder: clover, beetroot, tomato, carrot, potato, but also some weeds such as knotweed, nettle, Umbelliferae, feverfew...

Dodder attecks on Alfalfa

There are two primary species of dodder that can interfere with alfalfa:

  1. Cuscuta Campestris Yunck « big cuscute »Orange filaments
  2. Cuscuta Epitymum L. « small cuscute ». Straw yellow filaments

The fight against dodder starts by choosing certified seeds to avoid contamination by seeds. In case of the appearance of a cluster, it is important to rapidly apply chemicals in the zone. Only the destruction of the host plant allows the eradication of dodder. As a precaution, application zones must overlap the cluster by 2 or 3 meters.

The fight against dodder starts by choosing certified seeds to avoid contamination by seeds.
MAS Seeds alfalfa seed is certified to have 0% dodder in the bags.

Biology of Dodder


  • Seeds germinate at or just below the surface (0-10 mm).
  • Big dodder germinate at optimal temperatures of 30°C. Small dodder germinate at optimal temperature of 15-20°C.
  • Germination can occur without host plant => Lifetime 10 days.

Rapid Multiplication:

  • The filaments grow quickly and it spreads rapidly over a few meters.
  • First flowers appear 4 to 6 weeks after germination.
  • Thousands of seeds ripen quickly (2000-3000 seeds per stem).

Seed Longevity and Spread:

  • Dodder seeds can exist in the soil for a long time.
  • Under good conditions seeds can survive in the soil for up to 40 years
  • Agricultural machinery and crop production favour the dissemination of seeds across fields
  • Farm seeds is the first origin of dodder infestation.
  • Stored seeds can be transported by water, animals, tillage or harvest machinery.

Dodder germination

How to Fight Dodder?

Preventive way…avoid the introduction in field!

  • Use tools cleaned for working the soil, and for the harvesting.
  • Sow certified seed, guaranteed without dodder.

Curative way

  • In case of early infestation, the only ways to fight dodder is to destroy host plant.
  • Burn with straw or use a specific weedkiller (ask advice to your technician) a few meter overflow the rounds.
  • If dodder is spread through all the field, it is recommended to destroy the crop.

controls at each stages

To get agronomic advice or find seed, contact find your local MAS Seeds representative.

Alfalfa Grain

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