With winter right around the corner, it’s not too late to be thinking about 2020 alfalfa crops. A well-prepared plan this fall can make a significant difference in success next spring. Here are five things farmers should do this fall to aid alfalfa success next year.
- Evaluate stands to determine replant decisions. “There’s a good amount of alfalfa that was planted this year that will need to be replanted,” says Sara Hendrickson, forage product manager for Dairyland Seed. How does the stand look? Is it adequately dense? Will it be able to choke out weeds? She advises farmers to scout fields now and determine whether or not they will terminate stands for replanting in 2020.
- Consider interseeding. In alfalfa stands that are thin but not bad enough to terminate, consider interseeding grass in the spring, Hendrickson says. “Alfalfa stands older than 1 year that are thin but still need to be kept in rotation can be interseeded with a grass,” she says. “Assessing the stand both above and below ground will help you make the decision to keep and interseed or plant something else.”
- Plan your final cutting. “The worst time to cut alfalfa is two weeks before a killing frost,” Hendrickson explains. “At that point the plant has used all of its energy reserves to recover from harvest and has nothing to endure the frost.” In some cases, pushing harvest back may mean less tonnage. If you plan to terminate a stand anyway, Hendrickson advises pushing harvest back as far as you can and ignoring the two-week rule to get the most tonnage possible.
- Evaluate the potential for fall fertilizer application. If producers can get hay off the field in time, and can afford fall fertilizer, Hendrickson recommends it. If you can’t afford fall fertilizer, she recommends producers put a plan in place for spring needs now.