UNL CropWatch April 4, 2011: Assess Alfalfa Before Turning to Row Crops

UNL CropWatch April 4, 2011: Assess Alfalfa Before Turning to Row Crops

April 4, 2011

A little, spring-like weather always causes an outbreak of diesel fever among farmers.

Before you start working your row crop land, it's critical that you take time to check your alfalfa fields and make some important management decisions.

First is weed control. Winter annual weeds like mustards, pennycress, and wild oats or downy brome are starting to green up and grow rapidly. If you want to prevent these weeds from damaging your first cutting, you'll need to apply the right herbicide before alfalfa develops much growth.

Second, evaluate your alfalfa stand. With all the alternative cropping and forage options available, there is no good excuse for having low production from fields due to a thin stand of alfalfa. If alfalfa stands have declined to the point where you should add oats for extra hay this year or orchardgrass for a longer term solution, these need to be planted now, before your alfalfa gets a head start that could overwhelm new seedlings.

Your assessment also may lead you to rotate a particular field out of alfalfa and plant a new stand in a different field.

While it's temping to gear up your machinery and get into the field, delaying attention to your alfalfa fields may limit your options later and could affect overall production from these fields.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist