July 24, 2009

Preparing Seedbeds for Late Summer Alfalfa Planting

August is an excellent time to plant alfalfa, irrigated pasture, or other grasses if you have moisture and take time to prepare the seedbed.

Seedbed preparation is crucial for late summer plantings, as is good seed-to-soil contact and weed control. Half-hearted seedbed preparation produces only half decent stands.

Two types of seedbeds work well in August. A fully tilled seedbed is best for many growers. Weeds are eliminated, and the field is smooth. But don't overtill. Conserve soil moisture whenever possible, and put extra effort into getting a firm seedbed. You should be able to dribble a basketball on a seedbed in August. Rolling, harrowing, rain, or irrigating all help make seedbeds firm.

Small grain stubble also makes a good seedbed. Many drills can place alfalfa or grass seeds into stubble soil very nicely, as long as there isn’t excessive straw. Make sure you control weeds like foxtail, sunflowers, and volunteer grain before stubble seeding. Use herbicides like Roundup® or Gramoxone Extra®..

Whenever planting in August, and especially this year, be wary of grasshoppers. They love to eat new seedlings. Spray field margins with insecticides if more than 20 hoppers per square yard are present.

When preparations are done and soil moisture is available, plant shallow for rapid emergence and early so seedlings can develop good cold tolerance.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist