Prepare for summer seedings
Prepare for summer seedings: The winter of ’21–’22 was tough on alfalfa and alfalfa-grass fields. Winter kill and heaving were worse than typical winters. Stands should have been evaluated in April. Fields with less than four crowns of alfalfa per square foot should have had first cutting taken and been rotated to corn for this season. Some fields may have been left open to plant August seedings or may currently be in wheat or oats. Plant those fields to new forage crops in August, or as soon as they can be prepared. Those who grow peas have excellent fields on which to make new forage plantings.
After first or second cutting is another time to evaluate stands and plan for 2023. You need at least 5 alfalfa crowns per square foot for top yields. If you can’t count crowns, ask your CMA consultant to do some evaluations, especially on the older fields. Many dairy, livestock and cash crop hay growers need new forage crop acres. Spring planting was extremely difficult in April 2022. Take action now to be prepared to plant new seedings in early August. We all know this is a busy time with other crops, but demands from other crops delay the preparation.
If lime is needed, apply and incorporate it in advance of planting. Field conditions are excellent for lime application. August is when the days are becoming shorter and nights are cooler. Seedings will take off and make excellent growth during these cooler nights. Early August seedings are much better than late August. Be sure to apply enough Phosphorus to give the alfalfa plants a strong start. If possible, band apply fertilizer directly below the seed. Alfalfa is a tap rooted crop and the primary roots grow downward quickly once germinated.
No till or conventional till? No till seedings properly done always have good stands. The seed depth is closely managed and moisture is always there. Conventional seedings are good but run the risk of inadequate moisture for uniform germination. If it is too dry, roll or culti-pack after seed is applied.
Early August seedings on high pH soils with plenty of Phosphorus will produce plenty of growth and have great taproots. When cold nights put the plants into winter dormancy, they will winter well. You should still have a thick stand even in low areas next April. Alfalfa starts to naturally thin out after the first full year of harvest. Planning in June and July can bring benefits next season.