Make Alfalfa the “Athlete of the Acre”
Nutrition is a focus for competitive athletes because they must fuel their bodies to provide the energy needed for top performance. Similarly, nutrition is one of the most important factors affecting forage performance.
Plant scientist have found that plant diets can affect overall performance by 60 percent. Each plant species has
different food requirements, so crop farming is really like one big chemistry project. You must fertilize, or feed each plant, according to its genetic capacity.
To maximize yield:
- Remember that corn, soybeans and alfalfa have different nutritional requirements. Develop a fertilizer plan on a field-by-field basis.
- Sample each field to help you develop a nutritional plan, so you have a starting point. With tight margins, it’s
wise to complete a basic soil test and in-season tissue tests to design high-performance plant diets. Some crop plans still use traditional models based only on the crop removal of nutrients rather than factoring in the soil type and current soil nutrition. A soil sample helps prevent the over-application of fertilizer.
- Split applications can help reduce nutrient losses to leaching and to apply specific fertilizers when the plant’s nutrient needs are highest. Experiment on a few acres to help you make future crop management decisions.
Nutrient balance is critical, according to researchers at Purdue University. They found that alfalfa stands
receiving phosphorus (P) fertilizer but not potassium (K) yielded less than stands that were not fertilized at all. Their studies also show that providing adequate P and K fertilizer slowed yield reduction as the alfalfa stand aged.
A balanced diet is key to top performance. Develop a plan to feed your crop when it needs it! I’ll gladly talk with you more about how you can conduct your on-farm trials regarding nutrient management for your alfalfa. Feel free to call me at 1-877-GO-LATHAM.