By Dr. Don Miller
Director of Product Development | Alforex Seeds
along with Jeff Shaner, AgVenture Alfalfa Manager
This is the fourth and final part of an AgVenture series on alfalfa stand establishment with Dr. Don Miller of Alforex Seeds.
Just this week, I (Jeff) visited a farm with an aging alfalfa stand. Out in the field for five years now, this field was still productive last year, and the grower has a firm contract in place for his hay sales. The contract stipulates non-GMO practices and weed control was becoming an issue. We will follow up on the decision this grower reached in a moment after we hear from Dr. Miller.
The decision to rotate out of an alfalfa field is generally based on its productivity. Substandard varieties or low cost blends tend to thin prematurely due a to lack of pest resistance and/or poor winter survival.
The following guidelines have been found useful in determining when an alfalfa field’s stand density is no longer adequate to be profitable.
- Stems/sq. ft.: A productive stand has at least 55 stems/sq. ft. A poor stand has fewer than 40 stems/sq. ft.
- Plants/sq. ft.: A productive stand has more than 6 plants/sq. ft. If a marginal stand (fewer than 6 plants/sq. ft.) is showing significant crown rot (more than 50% plants) the field should be rotated into another crop.
Sound advice from Dr. Miller. Now back to the previously mentioned field…
There were definitely fewer than five plants per acre on the farm in question. As is often the case, the field was not consistent. There were portions with decent coverage by established alfalfa plants, but the majority of the field was sparsely populated and weedy. The owner is making a good call with a decision to take a first crop cutting of hay and then following right in behind with a corn crop.
Thank you for joining us at AgVenture for this series on alfalfa stand establishment! We look forward to bringing you more alfalfa content in partnership with Dr. Miller this summer, including ideas for handling that profitable crop during the growing season.
If you are ready to create an alfalfa plan for your operation, reach out to your AgVenture Yield Specialist or use the Seed Finder on our website to find your local Independent Seed Company.