As Summer Fades, It's Time
to Plant Alfalfa
When the county fairs are done and the state fair is around the corner, thoughts turn toward late-season essentials - such as planting alfalfa. Craig Loen, Federated agronomist at the Osceola location, offered these tips and reminders to help ensure a good stand of alfalfa.
- Use a current soil sample as a starting point.
- The pH should be 6.8 - neutral. "Remember," said Loen, "it takes up to two years for the ag lime to fully react in the soil." Don't rely on old soil test sample results.
- Ensure that phosphorous and potassium levels are high enough to support the anticipated/projected yield.
- Prepare a good seed bed - one that is firm enough "tobounce a basketball on," said Loen. He added,
"The firmer the soil, the better chance you have to establish an excellent stand." Alfalfa is a high-value crop, and while a stand may last three to five years, there's only one planting. Aim to do it right!
- Choose the right seed. See article below.
- Plant at the right time; this "can be critical," said Loen. Alfalfa needs at least six weeks of growth after germination before a hard frost. "The alfalfa plant has a better chance to survive if it develops a crown before a killing frost," said Loen, noting that the crown allows the plants to store root reserves for winter survival and spring regrowth.
- In Federated's geography, alfalfa and grasses should be planted between August 1st and 15th (in other words: now!).
- Use the seeding equipment that fits the crop.
- Grain drills are good for seeding grasses or a companion crop (though Loen cautioned that grain drills don't always place the seed consistently).
- Cultipacker seeders are more consistent [than grain drills] in soil-to-seed contact and seed depth.
- Brillion seeders are another good option, but in the end "you have to use the equipment you have in your shed," said Loen.
Put together your best combination of seed, nutrients, soil preparation, and planting methods to set the stage for a healthy stand of alfalfa next spring. Contact your Federated Agronomist with any questions.
Tips for Alfalfa and Forage Seed Selection
There are three key considerations that factor into alfalfa and forage seed selection, according to Bob Marquette, agronomist at Federated's Albertville location.
First, consider farm management practices
: How many cuttings will be taken? How well is the crop managed? How quick is the regrowth? The answers to those questions, said Marquette, "narrows [seed choices] down quite a bit."
Second, determine the weed control options,
especially with an alfalfa/grass seed mix. "Will you be using conventional weed control, or a Round-Up Ready® option?" Marquette asked. Obviously, the Round Up will kill the grasses.
Third, identify the disease or insect concerns
for the fields under consideration. Low lying areas are prone to diseases, caused by the wetter conditions, and "there are varieties that are bred to address that issue," said Marquette.
Insects are also a big problem in alfalfa - leaf hoppers in particular - and there are "varieties that help keep the leaf hoppers away," Marquette said, adding that these varieties "allow you to not have to spray as often - but you'll still have to spray."
Seed selection for alfalfa and forage is not cut and dried, but your Federated Agronomist can help you make the best choices. "[Growers] know what's been happening in their fields," said Marquette. "Let us look at your fields . . . together we can make a good recommendation for your needs."
"Although it's been a long year already for most of us, we need to . . . continue to scout for insects," said John Swanson, Federated agronomist at the Ogilvie location. The aphids and spider mite levels have been relatively low across Federated's territory, but there are hot spots of aphids and some spider mites as well.
"As we push into August we need to continue to monitor these insects . . . they can show up heavy . . . the numbers can blow up quickly," he said.
The hot and dry weather of late increases the
likelihood of spider mites, and "as we get some dry grass the mites are going to start to move into the fields," said Swanson, adding that spider mites are difficult to scout for. "Please don't hesitate to contact your local Federated Agronomist if you think you may have them," he said. Stippling on the leaves is a sign of spider mites, so keep scouting!
Though the aphid thresholds have been low, their predators are few. "With the right weather, [aphids] will explode quickly," said Swanson.
Continue to scout. Treat as needed, weighing both the costs and benefits.
Talk to your Federated Agronomist with any questions or concerns.
Discovery Plot Tours 2017
The 2017 Discovery Plot Tours begin Mon., Aug. 21 and continue through Wed., Aug. 30. Discussion topics include:
- 2018 Hybrid/Variety Choices
- 2018 Soybean Trait Choices
- An Introduction to Balance™ GT and GTLL in Soybeans
- Weeds are adaptable: Are WE adapting?
- Fall Nutrient Management
- Giant Ragweed and Waterhemp Management Update
Each tour begins at 10 a.m. and concludes with lunch at noon.
Please be sure to RSVP to your Federated Agronomist.
Mon., Aug. 21 - Osceola
- Craig Gustafson Farm
Tues., Aug. 22 - Isanti
- Paul Bostrom Farm
Wed., Aug. 23 - Albertville - Lennemen Farm
Thurs., Aug. 24 - Princeton - Wilhelm Farm
Fri., Aug. 25 - Sauk Rapids - Lezer Farm
Mon., Aug. 28 - Rush City - Mold Farm
Tues., Aug. 29 - Hinckley - Nate Nelson Farm
Wed., Aug. 30 - Ogilvie
- Steffens Farm