Assess Condition of Alfalfa Fields at First Harvest

Assess Condition of Alfalfa Fields at First Harvest May 19, 2016

First cutting of alfalfa is here or approaching rapidly and presents a good time to evaluate field conditions and plan management.

  • Look for weeds. 
  • Check for weevils – both larvae and adults. 
  • Count the number of stems per square foot.  Examine thin spots or areas not yielding as well as the rest of the field.

If you find problems, immediately start to plan how you will deal with them. For instance, if you have too much pennycress or mustard or downy brome in your first cutting, consider spraying herbicides next fall during the dormant season to kill these weeds.

Are stands getting thin?  Can you determine why?  Will this allow weeds to invade?  If so, it may be time to rotate to another crop in this field.  If you have other good alfalfa field options, rotate dryland fields after four to five years and irrigated fields after five to six years.

If some areas of the field don’t produce well but the stand is still thick, the problem may be dry subsoil, compaction, or inadequate fertility.  Investigate further so you can address the problem.

How do your alfalfa plants look when you cut them?  Are lower stems dark colored with many  leaves on the ground?  Spring blackstem may be the problem.  Do most plants have open blossoms or are new shoots starting to grow and then getting cut off by your mower?  In all these examples, earlier harvest might be wise next year.

Taking time now to evaluate your alfalfa stands can help you become a better manager as well as increase your production.

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