Harvest stressed alfalfa before leaf drop occurs

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Alfalfa is under severe stress from drought and alfalfa weevil pressure in many parts of Kansas this spring, resulting in stunted growth and damaged leaves, said Jim Shroyer, K-State Research and Extension crop production specialist.

This will affect management plans, he said.

“Normally, the first cutting of alfalfa should be made when regrowth at the crown is apparent. In the spring, this occurs prior to bloom,” Shroyer explained.

“But this year, producers will have to consider taking their first cutting even if regrowth at the crown has not yet begun. Leaves contain more nutrients than stems, and it’s important to retain as many of the leaves as possible to produce high-quality forage,” he said.

If cutting is required before the optimum time, root reserves on newly-established stands or even older stands may not be satisfactory to permit rapid regrowth, he said. But left uncut, the hay crop may be lost and damage to the stand may occur, he added.

Because of the stresses on alfalfa this season, producers should evaluate the condition of older stands as the season progresses, Shroyer said. These fields may need to be replaced sooner than planned, he said.

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