Interseeding Grass in Thinning Alfalfa

Interseeding Grass in Thinning Alfalfa

Most alfalfa fields start to lose stand and production ability after hay has been cut for several years.  Sometimes winterkill thins stands.  As your stands begin to thin, consider interseeding grasses into it. Not only might you extend the useful life of your alfalfa field by several years, you will develop excellent hay or a grazing source for livestock.

Orchardgrass is the grass most commonly interseeded into alfalfa, but other grasses like endophyte-free tall fescue, meadow brome, festulolium, and wheatgrasses also can be used. In fact, if the field will be used as pasture, a mixture of several grasses may be best since it adds diversity to your animals diet.

Interseeding immediately after a mid-August to early September hay harvest is excellent timing if you have moisture to start the new seedlings. Alfalfa regrows more slowly this time of year so it won’t compete as aggrossively with your new grasses. Still, if your alfalfa is relatively thick, you probably will need to take another cutting in about four weeks, or as soon as the alfalfa starts to form a full canopy. This will allow sunlight to continue reaching new seedlings below the alfalfa.

Next spring you will need to judge how well established your new grasses have become. If they seem a little weak, cut hay early to open the canopy for better light penetration. After that you should be able to hay or rotationally graze as you choose.


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