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Niels E. Hansen

1/19/2015:

Niels E. Hansen was born in Denmark in 1866 and grew up in South Dakota. He became a plant scientist and worked at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Around 1897, he began to travel, searching for hardy plants that might do well in South Dakota. He brought back many varieties, including smooth brome grass and crested wheat grass. In 1906, "The Citizen," a Utah publication, reported:

"After twice risking his life and once nearly losing it in the interest of agricultural science, Professor N.E. Hansen....has found in northern Siberia an alfalfa suited to the arid lands of the northwest, where the winters are extremely cold. He has informed Secretary Wilson that he has been successful and is on his way back with seed."

This expedition had been encouraged through the department of agriculture, which was "engaged for a number of years in encouraging the growth of alfalfa in various parts of the United States." Because of differences in soil and climate, they had trouble "procuring a variety suited to all conditions."

Hansen found that the Siberian alfalfa was able to withstand deeply cold temperatures, making it likely to survive in his home town, in what he called, "My American Siberia."

Recently, in 2011, scientists at South Dakota State University were studying the yellow-flowered alfalfa, trying to determine if they could use it to boost the nutrition in local crested wheatgrass pastures, raising "the nutrition available to livestock." And one hundred years before, on this date in 1911, some of that alfalfa seed was on its way to North Dakota. North Dakota Congressman Louis Hanna, a member of the agricultural committee, had earlier sought some of the seed, but his attempts were fruitless, due to a shortage in supply. This time, however, he succeeded in getting "nine small packages of the so-called Hanson Siberian alfalfa seed." It would be grown and tested here, in our winter wonderland – even farther north than Hansen's "American Siberia."

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Sources

http://beefmagazine.com/cowcalfweekly/0218-siberian-alfalfa-home-in-south-dakota / Feb 18, 2011 Lance Nixon, SDSU ag writer

Bismarck Daily Tribune, January 21, 1911, p1

http://www.sd4history.com/unit5/notabledaklesson4.htm

The Citizen, December 22, 1906, p5 - (American Fork, UT)