Your Alfalfa Know How

Two steps that will help you predict current and future yield potential of alfalfa stands.

Published on: Apr 22, 2013

Alfalfa stem counts will give you a good idea of a stand's current yield potential, says Doug Holen, University of Minnesota regional extension specialist.

•Greater than 55 stems per square foot indicates density will not be a limiting factor,

•Between 40 and 55 stems per square foot means there will be some reduction in yield, but the stand is probably more than adequate in years of low inventories and high value.

•Fewer than 40 stems per square foot stems indicate a poor stand and you many want to think about terminating the stand.

A check of root crown and health will give you an assessment of future yield potential, Holen says.

This alfalfa stand looks good. How is yours doing? A stem count and crown and root health assessment will give you a good reading.
This alfalfa stand looks good. How is yours doing? A stem count and crown and root health assessment will give you a good reading.

Dig up six inches of taproot material in three to four locations of a field. Split open the taproots to determine crown and root vigor. Look for healthy, off-white material indicating strong, healthy plants. Discoloration and spongy material are typical of weakened crowns.

 

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The symmetry of shoots growing from the crown also contributes information about overall plant health.

Other tips:

•When evaluating stand and yield potential keep in mind contributions made from grasses. Presence of grasses may be great enough to justify keeping a marginal stand in production.

•Make the same assessments on second crop regrowth. Watch for slow green-up, uneven stands, or additional plant mortality. Winter injury and/or death can be delayed by the shock of cutting a weakened plant, resulting in additional stand losses.

•Whenever stand diminishes to the point of needing corrective measures, take time to determine the cause. Troubleshooting problem fields and identifying the cause of stand reduction can lead to better management decisions.

For more information on forages, see www.extension.umn.edu/forages.

Source: University of Minnesota Extension Service

Set The Schedule For Hay Quality. Deciding when to make the first cutting of hay sets the stage for the rest of the year. Download our FREE report Bailing Up Hay-Making Costs: A Buyer's Guide  today.