Thickening Alfalfa With Spring Cereals
How is your hay supply? How about for next winter? Maybe you need to think about boosting yields from some older, thinning alfalfa fields this spring, given there could be very little carryover hay this spring and fewer alfalfa acres than usual.
Even if you receive average rainfall throughout this growing season, your hay tonnage could be down and not meet next winter’s needs. And if it turns dry, there could be big problems.
Maximizing tonnage from every inch of rain your alfalfa hay fields receive this year may be necessary. Unfortunately, alfalfa uses quite a bit of water for each ton of hay, especially as temperatures rise. So it is critical to get as much tonnage out of the first cutting as possible, before summer heat sets in.
One way to boost first cutting hay yield from older, thin alfalfa stands is to drill cereals like oats, spring triticale, or spring barley into those alfalfa stands right now. Try to get the seed about one inch deep. These cereals will use spring moisture very efficiently to add tonnage to your first cutting.
Drill 30 to 60 pounds per acre directly into your existing alfalfa stand as soon as possible. Where alfalfa is thick you may not get much, but in thin spots, these cereals should fill in rapidly. Cut your hay a little later than usual to get the most yield benefit from this addition.