UNL CropWatch Feb. 16, 2011 Soil Test New and Established Alfalfa
Feb. 16, 2011
Alfalfa is a hungry crop. It often needs a good application of fertilizer in spring to produce profitable yields throughout the season.
With increasing fertilizer costs and strong land use competition from other crops, a soil test is one of the best ways to determine the nutrients currently in your soil and how much fertilizer, if any, should be applied to achieve maximum profits.
If plant roots are well nodulated, alfalfa will get most of its nitrogen from the air. Applying more nitrogen may be a waste of money and fertilizer. Alfalfa will access all other nutrients from the soil or from fertilizer.
Many soils in our region provide high quantities of most nutrients, but few provide all the nutrients needed for top alfalfa yields.
Collect soil samples as soon as frost is gone from existing alfalfa fields and those fields you expect to plant to alfalfa this spring or fall. Send these samples to a lab for analyses of phosphorus and soil pH. If your field is sandy, eroded, or highly weathered, also test for potassium and sulfur.
Most important of all, use the results of these soil tests, with advice from your extension educator and fertilizer dealer, to develop an alfalfa fertilizer program designed for your conditions. Increased profits should result.
Extension Forage Specialist