Tips for Managing Alfalfa after a Rain - UNL CropWatch, Aug. 31, 2012

Tips for Managing Alfalfa after a Rain - UNL CropWatch, Aug. 31, 2012

August 31, 2012

Many dryland alfalfa fields have been sitting dormant for weeks but could start to regrow if we get rains soon. If this happens, how should these fields be managed?

It will depend on when that rain occurs and if it becomes enough to support regular growth rates. Since we are approaching the usual winterizing season for alfalfa, alfalfa should be allowed to grow without any harvest until mid-October. About the only exception to that recommendation might be to consider a salvage harvest or a stimulation harvest.

A salvage harvest may be warranged if 1) your alfalfa has gone fully dormant due to drought; 2) there is enough standing growth to harvest economically, and 3) that standing growth is starting to drop leaves. It doesn’t matter if it rains or not. Harvest shouldn’t hurt the stand and will give you some needed feed.

A stimulation harvest would involve cutting off any standing crop immediately before or as soon as possible after a heavy rain to encourage new shoots. Regrowth may develop a little faster without the influence of a standing crop. Cutting isn't necessary, but it might help regrowth.

It’s been a tough year for alfalfa and without rain, some of it may not survive the winter. Even with rain, plants will need adequate time to winterize and provide for a better crop in 2013.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist