Assess Condition of Alfalfa Fields at First Harvest - UNL CropWatch, May 17, 2013

Assess Condition of Alfalfa Fields at First Harvest - UNL CropWatch, May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013

The first cutting of alfalfa is a good time to look closely at your alfalfa stands to evaluate field conditions and plan future management.

  • Look for weeds and treat as necessary.
     
  • Check for weevil larvae and adults. (See scouting tips and treatment thresholds.)
     
  • Examine thin spots or areas not yielding as well as the rest of the field. If you find problems, immediately start planning how to deal with them. For instance, if you have too much pennycress, 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? Does this allow weeds to invade? Maybe it’s time to rotate to another crop. If you have other good field options, most dryland fields should be rotated after four to five years and irrigated fields every 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. Knowing which will help you target your fixes to what's needed.
     
  • How do your alfalfa plants look when you cut them? Are lower stems dark 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 getting cut off by your mower? In all these examples, earlier harvest might be wise next year.

Take some time to look more closely at first cut alfalfa to evaluate your stand and become an even better manager.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist