Consider No-till Seeding Alfalfa This Year

Consider No-till Seeding Alfalfa This Year

If you're seeding alfalfa this year, consider whether no-till might be a good option to help preserve crop residue and soil moisture.

There are some obvious advantages to seeding no-till, like fuel and time savings due to fewer trips across the field.  In addition, it helps reduce soil erosion by retaining crop residues on the soil surface rather than tilling them under and will limit the number of new weed seeds near the soil surface  No-till also conserves soil moisture, which may be the best reason of all this spring.

Disadvantages to no-till include relying solely on clipping or post-emergence herbicides for weed control.  Fortunately, we have good post-emergence herbicides for most weed problems.  Another problem may be ridges from prior row crops that can interfere with uniform seeding as well as make fields rough for future haying operations.  And finally, some drills do not work well for no-till seeding so equipment might limit your options.

If you can do it, no-till alfalfa is worth trying. It works really well in bean stubble and almost as well in small grain stubble. It can be a bit more difficult in corn and milo stubble, especially if there is much row ridging.  Be sure to kill any early weeds with Roundup or Gramoxone before planting. And last but not least, use a drill that places seed about one-half inch deep and then covers seed with soil using a good press wheel.

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