CropWatch April 16, 2010: Shortcuts for Planting Alfalfa

CropWatch April 16, 2010: Shortcuts for Planting Alfalfa

April 16, 2010

This spring wet soils and weather delays are causing field work and alfalfa planting to compete for what time is left. If you’re in this situation, consider some of these tips for saving time planting alfalfa.

Air Seeding. Conventional alfalfa planting requires several tillage operations to prepare a seedbed followed by drilling the alfalfa seed. By using a floater or air seeder rather than a drill, you can leave the field a little rough and reduce the number of tillage trips. Planting is usually faster with this option, but be sure your custom applicator is experienced at spreading the seed evenly. After broadcasting the seed, incorporate it just a little. Two quick passes with a flat drag harrow or a roller seem to work best.

No-till. No-till or reduced tillage also save time. Planting into bean stubble might be best, but small grain and even corn and sorghum stubble can be used. If residue is heavy, first shred or chop stalks so they are uniformly spread across the ground. After they dry, the drill will be able to cut through them more easily. Also, if the field has much ridging from previous crop rows, disk lightly to level the ground so future trips across the field will not be so rough.

If weeds are already present, spray a burndown herbicide like glyphosate or Gramoxone before planting. Then seed no-till, and be ready to use a postemergence herbicide like Poast Plus, Select, Buctril, Raptor, or Pursuit for early weeds.

For best results alfalfa should be seeded by May 15 in dryland fields or May 31 in irrigated fields. Given the narrowing window, these shortcuts just might help you get the job done in time.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist