Set Up New Seeding for Success

Punxsutawney Phil

The tradition of ‘Punxsutawney Phil’ predicts an early spring, which generates an emotion of excitement for those of us who are experiencing cabin fever.  Spring also ignites the optimism of a new season, especially for the eternal optimist, the American farmer.  Part of the spring thoughts stimulate reviewing past farming challenges with hopes of a better season.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else,” said Yogi Berra.  What a great quote!  This Yogi-ism really summarizes the importance of planning, but this isn’t a new concept to farmers who have been planning for years.  Today’s farming technology, such as computers and specialized programs like Latham’s hallmark Seed-to-Soil®, are empowering decision makers with solid information for past field performance along with current soil test results and so much more.  All this information, paired with the many years of a farmer’s deep personal experience with the land, have given way to experience new yield thresholds.

One of the first steps to achieving maximum yield is setting up seed for emergence success.  Alfalfa seed is especially small and frail; alfalfa has nearly 220,000 seeds per pound, whereas corn only has about 1,400 seeds per pound

Reviewing stand establishment details are important for the success of your alfalfa crop:

  • Soil Fertility:  Optimum pH and nutrient levels are critical.  If possible, delay salt fertilizer such as potassium until after emergence.  Salt can damage germ of seed.
  • Seed Bed Preparation: A consistent and firm seed bed helps achieve uniform seed placement.
  • Seeding Implement: Be sure your equipment, even new equipment, is properly calibrated.
  • Seed: Chose the correct genetics for the soil type and the desired result.
  • Seeding rate: Experiment with higher rates ( see below).
  • Moisture: Seed needs to absorb moisture to germinate and grow.
  • Weed Management: Control weed competition with appropriate herbicides or cutting.
  • Insect Management:  New seeding, lush and supple, attracts the appetite of insects.
  • New Trends:  In-season micronutrient applications, like Headline®, are trending for alfalfa production.

Design an Experiment

Designing alfalfa experiments on your farm will provide the most meaningful information for your situation.  Some ideas of interest might include:

  1.  Seeding rate:  Increase the seed rate to 25-30 lbs/acre.  I suggest seeding part of field at your current rate, and then increase the rate on another part of field.  More and more farmers are seeing positive tonnage results with this experiment.
  2. Micronutrient Application:  There are micronutrients especially designed for alfalfa.  Spray or spread micro package on one part of field of the newly established seeding. Then compare tonnage and quality with another part of the field.
  3. Headline Application:  Some growers have shared a positive personal experience of better plant health, more yield, and better quality after applying Headline.  Work with agronomist to apply this to part of field and compare differences.

There are lots of ideas in the industry, and I would enjoy hearing of some of your management ideas that have had success.  Feel free to contact me at