Execute Your Plan for Seeding Success
Vince Lombardi had many attributes that built his winning record, but I suspect it started with a vision of reaching the end zone. He then built and executed a plan. He kept it simple, often using the same play many times in a row. The power sweep was successful because the focus was on executing it flawlessly.
The same steps can be applied in your pursuit of leaving no yield in the field. Keep the vision clear. Build the plan. Master the basics, and you’ll hit the proverbial end zone of success.
Below are six basic steps to achieve success with alfalfa this growing season:
- Check emergence. Alfalfa is a survival of the fittest plant. Some research suggests 60% of seeds won’t become seedlings. Depending on your seeding rate, seeding bed, and weather, you should see 50 live plants per square foot within four weeks of spring seeding. AlfaShield™ improves survival chances.
- Check existing stands. The crown is fully developed after one full year, so we transition to stem count. Strive for more than 55 stems per square foot. If a field is not looking good and the stand is young enough, you should be able to no-till some supplemental alfalfa seed.
- Control weeds. Be the boss! Mortality rates are often high due to competition from aggressive weeds. Scout early and spray when label advises. The younger the weeds, the more vulnerable they are to herbicides. New seeding can be cut after about 60 days or so, which also can help manage certain weed populations.
- Be vigilant against pests. New seedings are vulnerable to leafhoppers, especially when they come from established fields nearby. Temperatures of 70+ degrees Fahrenheit also increase leafhopper reproduction. Eggs hatch in seven to 10 days and become adults in about 14 days. The damage to yield potential is often irreversible, so it’s important to be vigilant.
- Cut it short for best quality. A tremendous amount of research has shown a cutting height of two inches is the most economical and provides the best forage quality (See graphs below.) That is, as long as you don’t have rocks and gopher mounds!
- Feed the plants. Potash equals plant performance. Every dry matter ton of alfalfa removes about 50 to 60 pounds of potassium per acre. Consider adding sulfur, boron and zinc. Testing soil and tissue help you develop the best fertility program. Most growers apply supplemental fertilizer after first cutting and third cutting for best results.