Developing a Cicer Milkvetch that Better Competes with Alfalfa

Project Title

Development of Cicer Milkvetch (CMV) Germplasm for Enhanced Fitness to Alfalfa and Improved Animal Health


Hari Poudel (AAFC Lethbridge)

Bill Biligetu (University of Saskatchewan), Alan Iwaasa (AAFC-Swift Current), and Aklilu Alemu (AAFC-Swift Current)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2028 FRG.04.21C


Cicer milkvetch (CMV) is a non-bloat legume that has huge potential for grazing cattle when grown with Alfalfa. It is frost and alkaline tolerant and has the potential to drive away pocket gophers.  However, cicer milkvetch doesn’t persist in alfalfa stands. This is thought to be because of the allelopathic nature of alfalfa meaning that alfalfa prevents cicer milkvetch seeds from germinating and therefore causes it to die out faster.


  • To develop superior germplasm of Cicer milkvetch (Astragalus cicer L.) [CMV] that grows well with alfalfa in western Canada

What they will do

These researchers want to build on previous breeding efforts to develop varieties of cicer milkvetch that are able to persist in stands with alfalfa. Five cultivars of cicer milkvetch (Oxley, AC Oxley II, Veldt, Windsor, Hipal) and two cultivars of alfalfa (AC Blue J and Yellowhead) will be seeded in Lethbridge, Swift Current, and Saskatoon. Researchers will measure emergence and plant biomass of the stand over the 4 years after establishment. Forage analysis using handheld NIR and dry matter yield will be conducted.

Researchers will also complete a comparative analysis of handheld and bench top NIR to determine if calibrations are correct for hand held NIR and if it can be relied on for future experiments.

In a greenhouse, researchers will test different varieties of cicer milkvetch and its ability to grow with alfalfa. They will plant seeds in soil from alfalfa stands or alfalfa free soil and record emergence, plant health, mortality, height etc. Researchers will also try to germinate seeds that have been exposed to the toxins from alfalfa roots to determine which genotype has the best germination in its presence alfalfa root extracts.

Based on all of these experiments,  they will select the genotypes deemed most acceptable to move onto further breeding rounds.


While this project will not produce new varieties of cicer milkvetch, we will learn more about how alfalfa inhibits the growth of cicer milkvetch. This project is the first step in developing new cicer milkvetch varieties capable of growing together with alfalfa.