Short Cuts For Planting Alfalfa

Short Cuts For Planting Alfalfa

April 11, 2008 

Wet weather and other field work has prevented many growers from planting alfalfa at the optimum time. Fortunately, there are ways to save time with planting.

Conventional alfalfa plantings involve several tillage operations to prepare a seedbed, followed by drilling the alfalfa seed. A quicker approach may be to use a floater or air seeder rather than a drill.

This requires less tillage since it's best to leave the field slightly rougher than normal. The floater or air seeder can spread seed much faster than a drill, but be sure the custom applicator is experienced at spreading the seed evenly. After broadcasting, the seed needs to be incorporated into the soil just a little. Two quick passes with a flat harrow or roller work well.

No-till or reduced tillage seedings also can save time. 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 spread uniformly across the ground and the drill can 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 present, spray a burn-down herbicide like glyphosate or Gramoxone before planting, then seed no-till. Be prepared to use a post-emergence herbicide like Poast Plus, Select, Buctril, Raptor, or Pursuit for early weeds.

For best results alfalfa must be seeded by May 15 in dryland fields or June 1 in irrigated fields.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist